I can balance my checkbook, but I can’t balance my life. It’s impossible. Things in this world just don’t like to stay in balance — just watch my attempts at yoga! Juggling a handful of balls just ends up scattering them around the room.
And when we find those moments of balance, we have no room for anyone else. Intruders throw off our balance. If I’m standing in the middle of a teeter totter and you sit on one end, I have to quickly adjust. And if I’m sitting at one end, I can easily be catapulted from it or dropped painfully to the ground by quickly adding or subtracting others from it. If you want balance, be prepared to ditch any attempts at community, because balance hates a crowd.
Balance is elusive. When we see it, we marvel at it because it’s so rare.
So, give up on it. Seriously. It’s a bogus journey. Besides, there’s something much better out there to strive for anyway: Rhythm.
Rhythms are everywhere. From the chugging of a car engine to the backbeat of a song to the 24-hour cycle of each day, rhythms pop up all over the place in our daily lives. Every living body surges with a heartbeat. The universe has a pulse.
Rhythm is invitational. One person can keep a rhythm. Or 21. And when a basic rhythm is kept well, it actually draws others into it. Whole orchestras of musicians playing a variety of instruments respond to the call of rhythm and come together to sing with one voice.
Rhythm is communal. Rhythms work best when they take part in something bigger than themselves. A drummer by herself is nice, but when she’s playing with a band, her rhythm can elevate their melody. Rhythm is musical glue, but glue is only useful when there are pieces to be held together. Rhythm always calls for more.
Rhythm requires patience. A good drummer can keep a simple beat going over a long period of time. There’s no rush. There’s just a groove to get lost in, to sink into.
Rhythm requires attentiveness. To stay in sync, each musician must pay attention to the others and to the one keeping the rhythm. The drummer’s kick. The conductor’s baton.
Rhythm is sustainable. A beat can go on forever. Really. Once it’s been established, it is ridiculously easy to maintain.
Rhythm is simple. Anyone can do it. Anyone can join into it. There may be complexities which rhythmatists may explore, but most people don’t care about them. Most want a basic four on the floor beat that matches the pulse thrumming through their bodies, possibly elevating their heart rate a few beats. Or they want a three-beat waltz with the emphasis on the first beat that will propel them to dance.
Rhythm is subtle. It doesn’t draw attention to itself. Rather, it establishes a background on which others can make their music. Those who keep rhythms must be humble, not focusing on themselves, but on the music as a whole. The rest of the musicians don’t serve the drummer, the drummer serves the rest of the band, laying down a beat the rest can build on. This is foundation work.
So, what rhythms can we build into our lives which provide a substantial backbeat on which to build the melody and harmonies of our lives? Those who live wisely build daily, weekly, and annual rhythms into their lives whether they’re consciously doing it or not.
Daily: Eating family meals together. The basic unit of society is the family and meals shared together are the rhythmic glue that holds families together. No meals together, no family intimacy. Regular meals together (no matter how mundane the conversation or even the food) establish shared lives as the most important part of our existence. And when done well, they become invitational, drawing others to our tables and into the fellowship of our families. Also, paired with this daily sharing of lives together in our most basic human relationships is a daily immersion in prayer and Scripture where we share our lives together with God, the most basic relationship of them all.
Weekly: Keeping the Sabbath together. The rhythm of work and rest, of practice and prayer, of going and stopping establishes a rhythm of sanity and freedom and worship and play into our everyday lives like none other. And though you make not make it to church on Sunday, the Sabbath comes to you each week, hoping you’ll invite her in and receive her leisurely gifts. And like the rhythmic qualities above, it is simple, invitational, and communal, drawing us close to God and into community.
Annually: Celebrating holidays. I’m not talking about vacations where we vacate our lives, leaving our homes empty and our pocketbooks empty along with them. I’m talking about holidays that are holy days, days that draw us into the rhythm of a larger God-Story and involve us in a larger God-community. Escaping to Disneyland or to Hawaii might be a fun (and exhausting) getaway that can be good at times, but sinking into the Story and the community of God in Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and even other less honored feasts and festivals of faith adds depth and dimension to our often flattened-out and meaning-starved lives.
Are there others? Absolutely. Rhythms are ubiquitous. Just find the beat and join the dance.