“Every praiseworthy characteristic has two blameworthy poles. Generosity is the middle between miserliness and extravagance. Courage is the middle between cowardice and recklessness. Humanity has been commanded to avoid every such blameworthy trait.” -Ibn Manzur
If you’re agitated, stressed, chaos, upset, exhausted, and nervous. There’s one underrated value in the modern society that you probably missing: moderation or balance.
We boast how few hours of sleep we maintain, how insatiable we are in our careers, and how comfy our lives are thanks to an excess of luxury goods. It’s hard for us to divide equally, to allocate things correctly, and to be moderate in many.
The famous example is work. I’m not telling you should aim for work-life balance. If working long hours is okay for you and those people you loved, then it’s a balance. Make sure you maintain an open and honest communication with your loved ones. If your work made you tired, easily upset, anxious, these are the cue for imbalance.
Balance means untroubled spirit; it means controlling oneself; it means justice; it means setting everything in its rightful place; it means unbiased.
Everything has two ends and a middle. If you hold one of the ends, the other will be skewed. If you hold the middle, the two ends will be balanced. You must seek the middle ground in all things.
Have these things in balance.
External appearance and internal character
Jordan B. Peterson’s first rule is to ‘Stand up straight with your shoulder back’. He’s saying to get your posture right, stand for yourself, get ready for whatever life throws at you, and speak your mind.
I like that idea, but I would add something to it. While standing up straight with your shoulder back, on the inside, lower your arrogance and ego.
That’s the ideal person we all like to see. Someone who stands tall and humble on the inside. Someone who is decisive and gentle. Someone who is serious and fun.
We should be even in our mannerisms with others, carrying ourselves with tranquillity and dignity rather than flamboyance or melancholy.
“And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice; indeed, the most disagreeable of sounds is the voice of donkeys.” -Quran [31:19]
First and second half of life
“The second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing but the habits he has acquired during the first half.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky
What you do in your twenties and thirties matter the most. During this period of life, your energy level is up; your brain is up, your ambition is up, your muscles are up. Use this period to do something hard. You could do whatever you want at this stage of life. You could party every night or study every night.
Remember, you have various duties in life. You have a duty to your lord, your country, your body, your family. You have to give each one its rights.
Aim for a straight path ahead in both first and second half of your life, if you stray right or left, make sure to strike for the middle ground right here and now.
Make sacrifice now so you can enjoy your future. Balance the two.
“O people, remain straight upon the path and you will have taken a great lead, but if you swerve right or left, then you will be led far astray.” -Bukhari
Heaven and Earth
To quote Jordan again, “aim continually at Heaven while you work diligently on Earth.” I again like his idea of balancing the two.
These two are inseparable from having a great life whether you believe in religions or not. The idea of heaven can help to shape who we are today. Heaven is a place for the ones who do well right now on Earth. Why are we here? We’re here to help each other, to serve the public, to serve the common good and we won’t achieve that if we’re on the extremes.
“Seek the home of the Hereafter by that which Allah has given you, but do not forget your share of the world.” -Quran [28:77]
Life is suffering whether you do what’s right or not. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you are rich or poor. It’s all the same. Everyone suffers in their way.
Balancing Heaven and earth will orient ourselves in this life. It will make us aware of good and evil. So, we can choose the good and act well right now.
The Future and the Now
We are the only creature who can think about the future. That’s why human created all of these wonderful things. But, we live in the now.
If we think only about the future, then we might spend the rest of our lives only dreaming. We have to balance it with actions that are only happening in the now.
Benjamin P. Hardy says, “You decide who you want to be. But that decision is only a real decision if you do what that decision entails. Otherwise, it wasn’t really a decision. The decision is only a decision if action aligns with it.”
Doing the right things and doing things right
Notice the difference? One is asking “why do I want to do something?” versus “how do I do it?” the first focuses on the ends; another one focuses on the means. The first tells you whether you should do something; another one tells you whether you can do it. The first leads to improvements of a transformational nature; another one leads to improvements of an incremental or evolutionary nature.
Before you can address the details of “how”, you must be clear about the “why” so that the implementation details are aligned with the ends and consistent with the assumptions.
“I can’t call a person a hard worker just because I hear they read and write, even if working at it all night. Until I know what a person is working for, I can’t deem them industrious…. I can if the end they work for is their own ruling principle, having it be and remain in constant harmony with Nature” -Epictetus, Discourses, 4.4.41; 43
Balance the two.
Generalist and specialist spectrum
Optimising at the too high level of generality runs the risk of not having enough type and technical competence. Optimising at too low a level of generality ensures type and technical competence but insufficient task or team competence.
Brazilian football team have individuals who are very talented but not always robust enough as a team. German teams on the other hand often have less world-class individuals but gel solidly as a team and repeatedly do well in international tournaments. If we strike the right balance, the result will be a strong team of great individuals.
Tolerant of others strict with yourself
It’s rooted in the stoic teaching about things within and without our control. You won’t be able to control what others say, think, act about you. But, you can control your reactions, your assessment of it. That’s why you need to tolerate other people, but not yourself. For yourself, what you say, think, and do is within your control. If you’re not strict with yourself, you’ll get carried away with something else that is not you.
We should be moderate in our relationships with others. This includes not only all of the virtues we mentioned that lie between extremes but also to keep our feelings and emotions in check. We should love for people what we love for ourselves, but not as infatuation that we endorse their sins. And we should hate the sins and evil deeds people commit, but not as malice that we want to harm them.
“Let not your love be infatuation and let not your hatred be destruction.” –Umar Ibn Khattab
Giving and taking
We should be moderate in our charity for much the same reason. We ought to spend enough to help others in need, while still retaining enough to take care of our families and ourselves.
“And [they are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, [justly] moderate.” -Quran [25:67]
Let moderation guides you through all of your activities in life. Let it be the way you strive ahead. Let it balances your physical and mental state.
It is the avoidance of any extremism that leads us astray from the straight path. With this understanding, we can live healthier and happier. Also, being in moderation help counter the extremism that threatens all humanity.
All good things come in moderation.