Ah, what a word. I've been contemplating it a lot lately. Even the sound of it—when broken up into syllables, and given a bit of snake-tongue at the end ("ex"-"cesssssss")—I suddenly picture the image of a water glass being filled to the brim, and then spilling out and onto the countertops... and then pouring pouring pouring off onto the floor like a mini waterfall. Spills...of something off balance. Spills of too much.
The physics surrounding the idea of excess are incredibly simple. You have one object, with a certain capacity or amount of empty space— and then you have another object, or thing of matter with a certain size or volume. The logic of it all seems so easy: either one fits within the other, or it doesn't: like a puzzle piece falling perfectly into place. Or, we have a certain control with how much of something we are fitting into something else: like the water glass example. But...wait. We have control when it comes to excess?? Read: self control. That's the epiphany, I think.
I recalled Aristotle from a first year philosophy class at University. Aristotle said:
"the virtuous habit of action is always an intermediate state between the opposed vices of excess and deficiency: too much and too little are always wrong; the right kind of action always lies in the mean."
In other words: BALANCE—what Aristotle termed, The Golden Mean. Yes, just like we were saying—that makes sense.
But as little humans, the first word we learn—no matter what the language, or culture— is not "balance". It's MORE. Humanity's favorite word is more. How funny! It's rare that you encounter a child saying "enough" — especially when it comes to something good or delicious. Like cake! For some reason, we can never have enough cake until after the fact, when our bellies hurt and when our blood sugar has dropped below sea level. Funny...why aren't we able to see or, when it comes to cake, to feel when enough is enough? Out of sight out of mind? In the Leaving Wooster world, so many things we had were definitely out of sight...and they caught up to us eventually.
And then it brings up the image of that water spill again. I am thinking about our reaction to something that has overflowed in excess. Of course, it's usually panic, or frustration, or some level of OCD-clean-this-thing-up-now reaction. But what if you replace the "excess" thing with a different image...like a pot of gold overflowing? Same laws of physics—just different, more desirable matter. Does it matter? If you ask 4th century BCE philosophers they would say yes.
Without going down the rabbit hole of politics and economy and things that revolve around money and figurative "pots of gold"—just consider with me this for a second: that it's quite interesting that depending on the object or matter, humankind generally thinks that excess is okay. The more the merrier! Too much of a good thing doesn't exist.
...Until of course you want to travel the globe, and explore, and live freely without an object in the world to tie you down. You can definitely have too much of a good thing in that perspective (read: our perspective)—because your "good thing" no longer serves you.
So to conclude, I do agree with Aristotle. That the dream is not in excess or in deficiency—but instead, it's in balance. It always comes back down to balance. And balance is what we're learning more of every day: to approach each and every action with the intent of balance...because the reaction to that balanced action is always just right, no matter what you're doing.
Fun fact: did you know that the root of the word "balance" in Hebrew (איזון) is also the same root that forms the word "ear" (אוזן)? Why do you think? ;)
Wishing a truly balanced week to us all!