Growing up, I loved teeter-totter’s. They were a fun back and forth movement of going up and down. As I’ve aged, I see them representing the back and forth nature of the two halves of life.
Life, in its most basic sense, can be split into two different stages. The first is comprised of discovering, forming, and molding the self. This obviously continues until death, but for the most part, the first half of life is self discovery. The second, at least as far as I’ve observed because I am, after all, only 20 years old, is largely based around taking the person you’ve morphed into, and finding a way to morph that person into the unfolding beautiful picture that is a part of the larger scope of reality. It’s about discovering how your life, legacy, or history ties itself to the “bigger picture.”
The two of these differing yet simultaneously directly united stages are reliant on some sort of balance, or middle ground. Focusing too much on foundation leaves no room for legacy and vice versa.
Every teeter-totter has something called a fulcrum. The fulcrum is the support that the teeter-totter board rests on to allow it to go back and forth. It is the fulcrum that lets the teeter-totter shift position but is also the support that can allow the balancing act to reach that gratifying feeling of completely equal mass distribution.
If we are to have a good and balanced two halves of life, we need a fulcrum that will stabilize us and transition us smoothly from one half to the other.
I would argue that whether it’s an unconscious search or conscious one, everyone is looking for a fulcrum. The fulcrum of all of our lives is found most clearly through the habits we develop in times of confusion or disarray. Some are healthy, some are destructive. For someone, a fulcrum could be alcohol. They decide that the one sustainable thing in their life is booze. This obviously can be detrimental to their development in the first half of their lives, but perhaps more importantly, a fulcrum like alcohol is incredibly destructive to constructing a lasting legacy because it's not sustainable. It’s a temporary cure to a problem.
For others, their fulcrum can be found in specific religious practices. Their weekly routine of going to a service, maybe volunteering and saying nice words to people at their congregation, and getting involved in spiritual events at their church or temple. Yet the problem with this is the compartmentalization that is tied to specific weekly practice. It’s a sustainable fulcrum in so far that it does a lot to help the development of the individual, yet the legacy that it ties itself to is very minimal in its scope. For the most part, the legacy left is strictly tied to the specific group to which the individual is tied.
So, in my opinion, both alcohol and specific religious practice fall short of being healthy fulcrums to balance a life on. I want to argue that the best fulcrum to have is one strictly based on the act of selfless love.
Love is quite possibly the most used four-letter word for my generation which is both a positive and a negative. A positive because it shows we are catching on to spreading hope and positivity, but a negative because I fear that its redundancy has made it lose a bit of its power. What I’m talking about when I talk about selfless love, however, is anything that can extend itself past one individual to another in order to yield a better set of life circumstances, whether that be permanently or temporarily.
Are not those who had selfless love be their fulcrum some of the most highly esteemed individuals in civilizations history? Think of Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theresa.
As we progress through the first stage of life, loving selflessly quickly gives us the recognition of just how petty our own worries and troubles are because we are exposed to the realities of others. It is selfless love that unmasks the hardship, and also the beauty of every human life. When you take a homeless man to get a meal you realize his need, yet while you eat with him you begin to recognize the beauty of his life's story. Selfless love in the first half of life helps you not take life too seriously, something nearly all of us, including myself, need to work on.
Selfless love is also an amazing tool for the latter part of life do to its ability to help what we’ve stood for throughout our life extend its influence into the lives of others. Being defined by selfless loves leaves an impact on all those we act in that way to. When founded in love, our story and what we stand for extends itself to the bigger renewal of the human story.
The sustainable and life giving fulcrum of love is not so much an identity as it is an act. Although certain ideologies can be based in love, the impact of the fulcrum loses some of its power when its tied to a category rather than an action itself. A religion can base itself on love, yet compartmentalizing the legitimacy of that action to the specific title of the ideology undermines the act of love itself. For a Christian reader specifically, Jesus told us the way not the title.
A fulcrum of human life that is foundational and also sustainable is selfless love. It’s the perfect balance of development and legacy and is a foundation that carries us beyond being one-sided toward the process of going about life. It is selfless love that molds us into who we are to become, and it is selfless love that is the constructor of a legacy that far exceeds just our specific self. Selfless love is a fulcrum that balances out the past, the present, and the future.
photo by Hans Splinter Creative Commons, black and white edit made via squarespace editor http://bit.ly/1W1En1e