Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

On (or Off?) Balance

In her diary of June, 1945, Anais Nin wrote “something is always born of excess”. I would include in that, disastrous war and over the top art, often the products of unbalanced power and/or unbridled passion. It is no wonder we are inundated with messages to keep our lives “in balance”. But in working to keep ourselves out of the “war zone” are we also suppressing our creativity and personal expression?

In his book, On Balance, psychoanalysis Adam Phillps questions whether striving for balance is necessarily always a good thing. Back in 1834 John Stuart Mills proclaimed as if, because anything is called a balance, it must for that reason, be necessarily good”. Experiencing “excess” may actually complement our equilibrium, contributing to inner wholeness, an indication that we are alive, vital and human.

Phillips suggests that maybe there is far more to us than we realize. The death of a stranger triggers the accumulated grief that we have been bearing. Our “over-reacting” to a small irritation arises out of a deep well filled to the brim with years of frustrations. And yet society requires that we handle all this, repress it, tap it down and get ourselves back on tract. Should we reprimand ourselves when our emotions overwhelm us or are we just experiencing passion? Is our anger justified or must it always be repressed? Are we overreacting or unleashing our fullest, truest feelings, revealing things about ourselves we didn’t know? Maybe life does hand us more than we can humanly manage.

As children and especially as adolescents, we learn that excessive behavior is not acceptable so we strive to reign in those urges as we mature into adulthood. But Phillip thinks that what we really need to do is grow into our “excesses” not out of them. Accepting an unrealistic idea of how balanced life really is or even can be, may be more dangerous than rolling with the instability.

Sometimes when I sing, whether for myself or in front of an audience, I experience flashes of utter freedom when my passions direct me. I risk an emotional tight rope walk in my quest to communicate and share a personal epiphany with others. I do believe it is in that moment that I fully engage in “excess” – too much feeling, too much aliveness, too much hope. Phillips believes that when we lose our balance, when we allow ourselves to become unsteady, even overwhelmed, it is because something deeply matters to us. So much so that it takes us out of the realm of comfort and balance and into who we really are.

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