A previous entry maintained that moderation is not a qualitative stance or measure but an accommodation that fails to address a necessary ethic. It falls back or launches forward, but the self does not resolve an issue or solve a dilemma. Moderation trembles at a weak point, constantly struggling to push back an extreme.
Given that moderation is recommended so universally as a palliative or remedy to excess, what, then, is the alternative?
The alternative to moderation is balance. These concepts are not synonymous. They each seek a different moral center. Moderation is a human contrivance based on perception and will, and in the end seeks to satisfy the excesses of an errant appetite, idea, prescription, or other flawed presentation.
Balance is based on perception, inevitably, but balance already exists a priori to human intervention. Balance is intrinsic to the myriad things, upon which they take existence and depend, governed by its parameters, animated by its flow, functioning as its expression. Balance is not a Platonic form from which everything deviates, requiring moderation. It would be an apt image, nevertheless, if not so reductionist and subjective. Balance as a concept cannot be maintained by mental effort. Balance as a form is not a thing. Balance is not a being but a relationship, an equation of sorts, a thing only in so far as our human need for language and thought and conceptualizing, but not a thing in reality. Not a thing contrasted to many other “things.”
In a historical sense, the philosophical will to power is a deep reaction to cultural oppression and hypocrisy, but it is a willing nevertheless, a human contrivance attempting to correct other human contrivance, some enormous, most intractable by cultural or social terms. Will lacks the benefit of disengaging in order to understand a necessary interdependence. Hence, willing to power is still willing from within culture. As such, how can willing be any more effective than moderation at achieving a point of insight?
We try to alter the veneer of culture, modify it, moderate its excesses, knead it like clay to get a new surface, but nothing substantial changes because external acts are modifications, a reshaping of the same contrived elements. How, then, can a person change from certain fruitless behaviors by modifying the behaviors rather than by discarding the premises? Not by change, not by force, not by will, does insight arise. Only from insight can change, at least moral change, arise, but not from insight alone.
The only alternative to change (which we take as the starting point, the center point, for insight of any kind) is disengagement, non-engagement. This is withdrawal not merely from moderation as a human activity, not from willing as a gritty forbearance of pain, but by non-activity, wu wei, no-will, no-power.
Emptiness and formlessness are already within the self and nature. Emptiness needs to be cultivated so that it can quietly purge the accretions of culture, identity, experience, emotion, and the elements we think comprise our self. This is not destruction because the accretions disappear when no longer fed. This is not dis-assembly because nature maintains the true self intact when the accretions, fed by appetites and desires, fall away and insight begins to appear. What collapses like dust in spring rain are the thoughts that form a structure to worries, desires, impulses, emotions, habits. Stillness allows perception, no longer constricted by cultural pressures, though we are inevitably creatures of culture. The constrictions loosen. The cultural necessities of self — language, ethos, habitat, experience, style — do not disappear but recede to the degree that we are no longer restricted or constricted in outreach to nature and the universe. It is up to ourselves at that point to disengage from the burdens of culture and the demands of worldly involvement in order to advance insight.
This is the process of achieving balance. We do not moderate our cultural characteristics so much as extend self into nature and adapt its patterns, which transcend culture and human definitions of necessity. Culture misses the subtle processes of nature, crushes them in its lack of nuances, lack of silence, lack of observation and recollection.
Balance is what nature presents, without directive, and so we too must enter this flow in order to approximate the answers that plague our questions, to assuage through dissolution the worries, thoughts, ambitions, fears, and sorrows. Reductionism would capture balance into mere physical forces, barometric pressures, temperatures, movements and currents. The balance is not physical, however. No instrument can quantify it, no technology can co-opt it for another nefarious use. Balance is a soft revelation of deeper principles. Nothing is hard to be modified to softness, or the opposite. Not hot or cold, rough or smooth, black or white, but always an equilibrium, a flow, a balance wherein no single state exists but rather relationship. Human activity cannot capture these processes as structural projections that make culture. These processes escape this reductionism. Balance revels that nothing is so absolute or myriad that it cannot but be part of this oneness.