This I Believe

Betty - Las Vegas, Nevada
Entered on June 23, 2008

What goes up must come down. I believe in balance – yin / yang, male / female, public / private, high and low tide, warp and weft.

My homage to balance is not merely philosophical, but also physical. In my mid-twenties I developed an inner ear fluid imbalance problem known as Meniere’s Disease. This syndrome causes sudden, severe bouts of incapacitating dizziness and nausea that may last for hours.

Have you ever heard your washing machine thrown out of balance? One minute the machine appears to be operating as usual; the next it’s whomping and thumping and brings you running. Meniere’s attacks also come on with a bang. Unfortunately, the stakes are higher for humans than for household appliances. One moment you’re taking a typical shower, and the next you’re blindly grasping for something to cling to, a la Janet Leigh in Psycho, the tub spinning beneath you. If you manage not to fall and be knocked unconscious, you’ll likely spend a few hours on the tub floor with everything rapidly turning in circles, an involuntary participant on a carnival ride conceived in hell.

Not only does this condition affect your daily routine, it also throws your entire life out of whack. And it comes with little sympathy: Though it affects my life profoundly, most people don’t know I have it.

Fortuitously, when the attacks were the worst, I moved from my native New York to a desert climate. After about a year the full-blown attacks ceased, and a couple of decades later I still experience only mild ones. But I can’t go home again, can’t relocate from the desert at all, and my energy level is chronically on the low side. I know if I overdo it, I’ll pay.

From my vantage point, it appears our very world is tipping and tilting increasingly out of balance, just asking for it.

A world with unchecked population growth must surely suffer unpleasant corrections. A world that treats women as second-class citizens, and God as male, is unwise and off kilter. A wasteful society, mining the environment beyond its capacity, is out of whack. Untempered capitalism is warped, promoting the few exceptionally wealthy empowered over massive numbers of those lacking capital. In the past, such systems have led to equally imbalanced reactions, such as severe Communism, vicious dictatorships, and that big ol’ party with the guillotine.

There were times I wished I’d just died young instead of living with this mostly-hidden handicap. Fortunately, I’ve been able to retreat to the desert. But where does a whole planet find refuge from a massive, dizzying fall, except within itself?

Imagine an unbalanced washing machine the size of planet Earth. If humanity fails to heed the whomping and thumping, Mother Nature will have to come running to restore balance. I fear it won’t be pretty – because, as Newton pronounced, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Have human integrity, ingenuity and compassion evolved in balance with greed, ignorance and hopelessness? I guess time will tell.