The idea that symmetry is beautiful, ideal and somehow “right” is an old thought, one that may be innately human and as old as humanity itself. It is seen in art, architecture and anatomy, from the biblical blueprint of Noah’s ark to the molding of the Arc de Triomphe.
Sixteenth century astronomer Copernicus reflected that the reason for the circular motions of the planets could be due in part to the innate perfection of the shape of a sphere, calling to mind the era in which it was common to arrange scientific understanding according to the perceived attributes of God. The idea that things should be balanced is inseparable from the idea that there is, in fact, a way things to be.
This idea that things ought to be symmetrical is, arguably, more strongly evident in current North American culture than it has been in the past. Common refrains echo that school life should be balanced with social life, which should be balanced with work life, family life and with spiritual life. We ought to display “moderation in all things” and be “well-rounded,” “balanced” individuals. And, as human nature suspects, there is virtually nothing wrong with this. It is how things should be in their own good and perfect timing.
Concerning this dynamic, Danish philosopher Kierkgaard noted “Form is not the basis of life, but life is the basis of form.” By this, he meant that balance is a characteristic by-product of a life well-lived, not the driver and supreme purpose of that life. Balance is something that emerges slowly and will not come to completion until after this life in a pointedly imbalanced world.
Time is an important consideration when reflecting on what it means to be “balanced” or complete. One does not and should not look the same at all stages of the Christian walk.
“When I was young, I talked like a child, I spoke like a child…” reflected Paul, without condescension to his younger self.
There is nothing wrong or unnatural about being a child when one is a child. A problem arises when one becomes an adult and has no foundation of being a child from which to grow.
Jesus chose, and simultaneously designed, the human body to be a living symbol and demonstration of the way in which his community of disciples operates. The human body itself is relatively symmetrical, but the same cannot be said of all of its parts. As with the human body, the human mind does not grow proportionately. Feet and curiosity shoot ahead of height and ability to reason, and in both, growing pains necessarily remind one of one’s own mortality. Balance and proportion are safe. But things that grow do not grow proportionately.
There is a season for symmetry, but developing balance requires seasons of imbalance. Allowing the social life or the life of the mind to shoot out ahead of another part of one’s life, out of balance and out of proportion, may be the most natural and necessary thing when growing. Laying aside the common obsession with balance in order to allow room for some amount of asymmetry may be culturally and socially a sacrifice. But it is also spiritually, sacredly indispensable.
Written by Christina Cannon