The dynamic of Harmony, Balance and the dead end of extremes

Anything taken to its extreme, good or bad, becomes absolute, totalitarian, dictatorial, oppressive and negative. Where there is no balance there can be no harmony, diversity, beauty, love, freedom, happiness. Where you can see no different shades of grey, there is only black and white.

Extremes by definition lay at the end of a spectrum and thus are rigid and inflexible, there is no space to go any further when you are at the end of a continuum. When at the edge of an extreme you are making contact with inevitable endings, death but also change and transformation.

Extreme ideologies of any direction are essentially similar, they touch each other from either end of the spectrum, barking at each other while unable to see their reflection in their mirror image.

History has proved this to be true in the form of different ideologies who wanted to change the world, make it bow to their ideas as the ones being the best for the people, senseless wars, genocides, terrorism, religious wars, crusades and so on. Nature shows that to be true every day, extremes do not survive for very long, their very nature causes reaction and change, a natural homeostatic system to bring back the balance. Nature knows, why don't we learn?

On the other hand change cannot happen without the dynamics tilting to one side or another.
Growth is but the sum of numerous changes, each end of the spectrum fighting to gain ground. The eternal dance of yin and yang. All the while the Universe is targeting the central line, equilibrium and harmony.

No matter how impressive the conflicts and reactions, the aim is always to achieve balance.
Growth being the spiral that makes things shift a notch in the form of a conflict or disaster going one level higher every time at each turn. History repeats itself we say, maybe it is an inevitable fact of our evolution. Things repeat themselves when we do not learn, when we do not go that one level higher on the spiral of growth and development.

The dynamics of Yin and Yang are everywhere and not only in nature, we find them for example in history, economy, relationships, art, music. One symbol that I find depicts the dance of change and evolution and the value of harmony and balance is the Caduceus.

Originally attributed to Hermes, often mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine - especially in the United States - instead of the Rod of Asclepius, which consists of a rod entwined by a single serpent. The two-snake caduceus design has come to symbolize Alchemy and wisdom, communication, trade and negotiation as well as all the attributes of the God Hermes. But the Caduceus was also found in Mesopotamia and India where it has always symbolized peace, harmony and balance.

The two entwined snakes of the Caduceus represent the duality of Yin and Yang and the unification of polar opposites on a single rod which represents 'what is'.  As such, these double snakes symbolize the balance and integration of polarities in order to achieve balance and harmony.

From an Alchemical point of view the Caduceus represents the marriage of opposites, sulphur being the male and quicksilverthe female with the goal of unification and transformation. Essentially the Caduceus symbolizes the creation of life itself.

How do these abstract notions translate into the tangible of our every day life and why should we bother?

Lets take the example of family system dynamics, where lets say the parents do not get along and one of the children subconsciously take it upon themselves to become the 'problematic' one in order to attract the attention of the parents so that they no longer focus on their own conflicts, but together they join into addressing their child's 'problem'. Isn't that homeostatic in essence? Isn't this an attempt to bring about some sort of 'balance' and 'harmony' back into the family system? Even if not conscious and not really effective nor healthy, these mechanisms in the family dynamics do take place and once we understand them we can take appropriate action to bring back a healthy harmony into the family.

What about the eternal game of lovers 'chasing game'. The more attention one of the two gives to the other, the more the other distances themselves, the more one seems to be aloof the more the other tries to get their attention. Dancing thus back and forth on the continuum of attention until they strike the right balance that will make the relationship viable and functional for them both.

Have you heard of the saying: "Nature likes to fill the gaps"? When we exterminate one species, others come to replace it, when one population of animals seems to decrease, another takes over, when one virus seems to be eradicated another one is born. The purpose behind it is always to achieve some sort of balance.

Our behaviour can be perceived as a form of energy. The nicer one person is the more others will take advantage of them. Using the above analogy imagine that energy pushing towards or pulling back from the other person. The less a person radiates their energy outwards, the more the other side will fill the 'gap' and fill it with their own energy and vice versa. How does that relate to a person being nice?

The nicer one wants to be they will do one of two things: Give and avoid conflict. When people give too much, they push their energy towards the other person. At some point if that energy is too much the receiver will react by either taking advantage of the person or reject the giving energy. Same with avoiding conflict. The more one avoids conflict to please another, the less Yang energy they put out there into the relationship equation and the more they pull back. The other person is going to fill the gap thus created by pushing their own energy in. Once again there is an imbalance in the relationship and one of the two always ends up feeling taken advantage of and/or feeling miserable.

Take the example of a couple where one is very passive, never gets angry and is generally cool as can be. It will most often be the case where their partner will be the one putting all the Yang energy into the relationship to bring about a balance. Resulting in the more active partner expressing more anger and more frustration than they would want to. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't.

It is interesting to note that the same 'angry' partner when meeting someone else who happens to be more Yang than they are, end up cooling off and backing down! Same person different relationships. How can that be? The dynamics changed. If they were to keep bringing into the relationship equation the same Yang energy there would be an explosion and in order to maintain the balance one of the two needs to adjust to the other person's energy.

So we can see it is a push and pull of Yin and Yang energies, the positive and the negative, the female and the male, the cold and the hot, the dark and the light, that keep dancing this eternal dance striving to achieve harmony and balance. And we see this all around us.

How does that relate to our built space, our home environment and design? You have probably noticed that good design is characterized by some sense of harmony and balance and when I say balance I do not mean 'equal parts' but one part being harmonious in relation to the others. A room where everything is blue, to use a simplified example, will feel too cold, a room with too many sharp surfaces will feel too aggressive, a room where everything is white will feel too plain. The key word here is 'too'.

Too much of anything and the balance is lost. A work of art achieves harmony by a combination of form, color, texture, layout and composition, the same goes for our built environment.  Too much homogeneity and things get boring, yet if something is in total disharmony with it's surrounding environment, we refer it as an 'eyesore'.

As humans we have an inherent 'sense' of what constitutes harmony and what not and we respond to it even subconsciously. We may not know how to put it into words, but we do instinctively react to it at one level or another.

Be that relationships or our environment the laws are simple and they are the same. It is a subtle dance to achieve harmony and balance. The Caduceus is a beautiful symbol of the ideal state of balance and harmony, of the dance of life, the eternal push and pull of opposite forces, the breath of LIFE.

A good rule of thumb to achieve harmonious balance is to use the ancient Greek Kleovoulos's quote: "The measure is the best".