In my year 12 geography class we learnt about dynamic equilibrium. We were studying coastal systems - the actions of tides and waves and wind on sand and land and ocean landscapes. In a nutshell coastal systems are ever changing and yet always in balance (remember we were studying in pre global warming days). We looked at a number of ways that people intervened to try and prevent change in coastal areas - building walls of concrete and rock, dredging, importing sand, you name it - and how spectacularly all such interventions failed. Change, as they say is the only constant and no amount of real estate investment can halt it.
This concept of dynamic equilibrium captivated me. The idea of constant and unstoppable change felt instinctively and undeniably true, but the companion notion of eternal balance was enormously comforting. Where change had always felt unsettling and frightening (who knew where it would lead?) the idea of constant change as a function of balance, rather than a competitor to it made change fun and full of promise. Each change was merely an adjustment, an improvement, a fine tuning, while all else was working at restoring and maintaining balance. It should also be said I was greatly engaged by the complexity of it all - that enormous systems and systems in systems could somehow be cooperating in some imperceptible dance.
All that stuff in that last post is true, and there is much much more, but in the end it doesn't come close to unpacking the incredibly complex systems we all live in. Mapping these things out gives you a start on understanding the landscape, but it isn't a guidebook and it can't help you navigate. It can't explain why one person is up there on the hill and another down here in a ditch - or indeed why that hill is lush forest and that one over there a windswept rocky outcrop. To understand what anything means to you, you have to chase so many rabbits down rabbit holes that you might as well give up before you start. Big picture thinking is just that - it can't explain things down here where we live.
And that's the kick, right? You can know a lot and be no better off. Well, that's not entirely true. It does help to know I'm not alone, and it does help to know chances are it's not my fault per se that I am in this mess. That there's a great big barely perceptible system out there that's continually adjusting the landscape in mysterious ways means the good and bad are both as much about luck as about good planning. You can have the route all mapped out and still end up in the ditch, you can stumble blind into hidden paradise.
When I take my head out of the books and remove my professional line of enquiry hat I am at a loss to explain how I ended up here. Even knowing all the steps I took, knowing all the sound reasoning that went into them and the solid foundations from which I stepped in the first place I still can't understand why I am stuck in the mud.
Perhaps the dynamic equilibrium paradigm really only applies to systems larger than my life because it seems to me that a spinning top is much more how it feels. Big gestures start things moving and small imbalances are easily absorbed by momentum, but after a while even the tiniest overcorrection starts the cascade of violent oscillations that end, inevitably with a crash and sudden and absolute stasis, somehow washed out of the system altogether.
I don't know what comes next. Somehow things need to be restarted, but I just can't seem to find a way back into the system. I keep hoping like hell I will stumble upon the firecracker but there just doesn't seem to be any room to move. Instead I wander off in day dreams of radical upheaval, contemplating options I've previously disregarded or dismissed. Full time work. Interstate moves. Further study. Spiritual retreat. Crazy notions of freedom and fulfilment.
I have to say I have deeply deeply appreciated your comments on these last few posts and revisiting this topic after a few years has certainly been interesting. I wish I had more answers, or at least something a little cheerier and prettier to say about the problem. I'm certainly tiring of hearing myself moan. I have a fairly low tolerance for listening to people articulate problems they aren't prepared to tackle so I think that might be my cue to shut right up.