Monday 18 March 2024

Get the Balance Right: See Saw Margery Daw

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a new born baby, Eileen. Yes I did sing the song. In fact I sang a few songs. I have sang several since, you know the usual nursery rhymes, like “rockabye baby”, “all the pretty little horses”, “Frerer Jaques”, “Twinkle, twinkle”, “The cradle song”. I Spent a bit of time this week recording them on voice notes, I have enjoyed it immensely. I have also bumped into Eloise Williamson, who grew up at Dunham Road, a few times these last couple of weeks, out and about with her twin daughters. She tells me they are 6 months old now. They have already developed unique personalities. She pushes them around in a double pram, one on top of the other, like a mobile bunk bed. I have noticed that the top child is always happy and smiling, while the baby below always seems to be crying. I have also noticed that as soon as I talk to her she seems happy again, especially if I sing. I have always been a bit of a baby whisperer, apparently my voice is calming, soporific some say, I hope you manage to stay away during this sermon. It is fascinating to see these two personalities developing, I wonder what their lives will be like. They seem an interesting balance of a happy jolly child and another that always seems to be crying. Why this is it is hard to know, I don’t think it is anything do with the position in the pram. I suspect that it is just that some of us need more soothing than others. I am told I cried a lot as a baby.

It all got me pondering as life always does.

On Tuesday morning I was out with Molly in the park. I was enjoying Molly’s joy, although I was interrupted many times by phone calls. As I walked passed the play area I noticed the see-saw which brought me back to those children’s songs. I found myself singing the classic “See saw”, I have been singing all week.

See Saw Margery Daw,
Johnny shall have a new master;
He shall earn but a penny a day,
Because he can't work any faster,

I thought about the joy of the see saw. It’s a game that you can’t play alone. You need someone else to play the game. It’s a game that is about moving constantly from one side to another. It’s a game in which equilibrium, perfect balance, is never reached. It’s a game of energy, weight and motion. When was the last time you played on one?

It is a strange kind of nursery rhyme, when you think about it. It is thought that the rhyme has its origins as a sawyer’s work song, as they would work in pairs and would therefore encourage the other to work faster, thus mimicking the see-saw. It is thought that “daw” was a lazy person, think of the “Daw Mouse”, always sleeping in Alice in Wonderland. So it wasn’t really a nursery rhyme at all, more a kind of work song. Instilling the classic protestant work ethic.

Of course being stuck in anything is no way to live, there is something wonderful and beautiful in rhythmical movement, in it we flow with life. Also there is something in moving with another. We awaken something in each other, like singing to a baby, there is such joy in it for the singer and the baby too, as the baby responds to the song.

Movement enables balance it seems, it brings us to life, that said there is also time for rest, for joy, to be dormant. There is something that can be corrosive to our humanity in just working. As the old saying goes, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” This is why I love singing to folk so much, it is playful to me, but also encouraging. It is hard to get the balance right though in any aspect of life.

I wonder if there is ever perfect balance, equilibrium in life? It seems to me that everything is always moving, perfect balance is never achieved. Perhaps it is better that way. You can never “get the balance right”, to quote another 80’s pop song. They are great lyrics by the way, by good old “Depeche Mode”.

This time of celestial and seasonal balance is a perfect one to check out the balance in our own lives. Where are the extremes in our own lives that need balancing out? How do we see ourselves and each other? Is this in balance? Do we have a balanced view of life? When looking at ourselves do we have a balanced and honest view? How are our “umeres”, as the ancient physicians used to call them, are all four of these fluids in balance? How is your health, your physical, your emotional, your mental and your spiritual health? These four could well be our present day “umeres”. Physicians no longer believe we have four fluids that need to be in balance, that said our well being still needs stability and balance.

“Get the balance right.”

A balanced life is considered a good life. We are told that we need to balance the books, in the home and in the community. A balanced diet is vital to healthy living. Power needs to be balanced in the public sphere, too much power in any individual or even groups hand is dangerous. Balance is vital to performing physical activities. Most athletes are admired for their balance as much as for their strength and speed.

Balance is seen as vital by virtually all spiritual and philosophical traditions, extremes in any sense lead to danger and destruction. As Robert Fulghum advises “Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” The philosopher John Locke wrote “An excellent man, like precious metal, is in every way invariable; A villain, like the beams of a balance, is always varying, upwards and downwards.”

This coming Wednesday 20th March is the Spring Equinox, the day when light and dark are in balance. This happens twice a year both in Autumn and Spring. Equinox means “equal night”

The March Equinox is known as the Vernal Equinox, meaning new, as it marks the beginning of spring. In the northern hemisphere as we tilt towards the sun the days grow longer and sunnier. The September Equinox is called the Autumn Equinox, marking the beginning of this season. In the southern hemisphere these seasons are at opposites ends of the year.

Now it is said that there are magical properties to the Equinox. Many stories, in a variety cultures, speak of this. One such comes from China. Does anyone know what it might be?

Well according to Chinese legend, for an hour before and after the Equinox on Li Chun (the day when Spring Begins), it becomes possible to balance things that otherwise it would not be possible to do so. On this day it said that for a short time you can even balance an egg, due to gravity balancing itself. Now apparently this mythos received a great deal of publicity in the 1940’s, even Einstein commented on it. It is said that in the city of Chongqing many such egg standings took place around this time. Now it seems that this wasn’t just a trick, an illusion. The truth is with the right egg on the right surface you can stand an egg on its end on any day of the year.

This time of year is about eggs, new life, fertility, new babies, new beginnings. I was talking about eggs on Tuesday morning. How much I love poached eggs. How do you like yours? The best I ever had was at the Ritz a few years ago, when I won a night in a suite there.

This got me thinking about yoke and balance, the image of eggs standing up and their life sustaining centres. References to Yoke (A different kind of yoke I know) in the Bible is about balance; about balance as we work through life; it is about teamwork, cooperation, discipleship. One of the meanings of the word yoke in yoga is union, derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means 'to yoke'. When oxen are yoked, they must work together for a common purpose. In contemporary yoga, the union is often described as “a process of integrating the body, mind and spirit. This reminds me of those “umeres “of medieval medicine and getting the balance right.

“Get the balance right”

Yoke also got me thinking about parenting qualities and new born babies and how equilibrium is so vital to this. When I think of the “Yoke of Jesus”, it is this that comes to mind. A love that is gentle and humble, it is close to the ground, the earth, the ground of being. Tender like the love of a mother for her child, a father with the babe in his arms, a grandparent or close friend. It’s a love that comes alive in relationship. A baby needs to find rest, comfort, care, protection and light-heartedness. Don’t we all though, not just babies.

A friend called me on Tuesday, while I was out with Molly, talking about the stresses of caring for his mother who is in her nineties. He said it was his turn as his mother had always been there for him. Particularly a time twenty years when she went to great lengths travelling half way down the country to keep him alive. She was the light in the dark of his life and now it was his time as she enters the twilight of hers. There is a beautiful balance here too. I wonder if he sings her songs around her hospital bed.

Life naturally balances itself out, but it requires us to play the see-saw game, to play our role in getting the balance right. Balance is hard to achieve, it is never perfect. It isn’t a constant, static, state of being. We live like a seesaw constantly moving from one end to the other, attempting to get the balance right.

Maybe this is something to think of as we enter spring and move towards Easter, to develop a new kind of equinox; perhaps this is what we need to be give birth to this Spring time. That would be the perfect Easter egg when the day of re-birth, of new beginnings comes. This time of celestial and seasonal balance is a perfect one to check out the balance in our own lives. Where are the extremes in our own lives that need balancing out? How are our “umeres”, as the ancient physicians use to call them, are all four in balance? How is your health, your physical, your emotional, your mental and your spiritual health? These four could well be our present day “umeres”. Have we got the balance right in our lives?

Aristotle proposed that the key to authentic happiness and not mere momentary satisfaction or pleasure arose from living a life of “Virtue” and that this could be achieved by the “Doctrine of the Golden Mean”, by living a life centred on a sort of dampened equilibrium. That virtue lays in avoiding excess. He saw courage as lying somewhere between cowardice and recklessness.

One of the great Greek myths illustrates this perfectly. Icarus was advised by Daedalus to fly somewhere between the sun and the sea, but he flew too close to the sun. Centuries later didn’t Goldilocks rejected the porridge that was too hot and too cold for the one that was just right, she chose the middle way, thus following the virtuous life.

The key to living in balance and harmony is about relationship with life, with each other, with ourselves and with God, another four modern day “Umeres” if you like.

Isn’t this what life is built upon, our relationships. I suspect above everything that this is the key. To ensure that our lives are in balance in these four aspects of our lives. That are relationship “Umeres” are inbalance. So how are your relationship “Umeres”? Are they imbalanced? Have you got the balance right?

Perhaps that is something to check, in this season of balance. How are you in relation to your inner self, the people you share your life with, life itself and your God, however you understand God? Have you got the balance right?

Relationships and trust are so vital to babies and the most vulnerable amongst us. We need to trust those who love and care for us. They need to feel that they can rest easy in our yoke. We need to trust in those who care for us too. Love and care needs to be in balance too. This is never static it is constantly moving back and forth. It needs to rock back and forth. A bit like another nursey rhyme I’ve been thinking of this week. I recorded it for Eileen the other day.

Rock a bye baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Lets step forward into Spring, gently and lovingly, caring and being cared for. With our love gentle and balanced, moving forward sustained by an ever loving yoke. Let us rest together in the yoke of life, that life sustaining love.

Please find below a devotion based on the material in this "blogspot"

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