Balance is an incredibly vital part of life. From a neuroscience standpoint, balance is controlled by the same part of the brain that performs other basic functions like breathing and regulating temperature. Over the millennia of human history, we have collectively accomplished pretty incredible feats of balance, and we continue to push the boundaries of what is possible; ever heard of Cirque du Soleil, or Sketchy Andy? But there is another way to be a master of balance, and while does it not demand that you do flips on a high wire or stand on the seat of a unicycle, it often does require just as much practice, patience, and trial and error. In the abstract, having a strong sense of balance refers to one’s ability to simultaneously manage their many obligations to themselves, to others, and to the world, with their passions for creativity, physicality, community, etc. In other words, it means delegating a proportionate amount of time and energy to reflecting on the past, living in the present, and working for the future. The Buddha was the ultimate master of balance, and his lessons are still followed by millions, perhaps billions of people, through the sacred works like the Tripitaka, and through countless self-help books that have adapted his values and ideals to fit a modern, Western culture. But the abstract form of balance has another side that is often excluded from the modern self-help books; an entirely outward form of balance of which I have just seen the tip of the iceberg. I speak of the balance between mankind and nature.
After leaving Lake Okeechobee, I followed the Kissimmee River (pronounced Kis-SI-mmee, not KISS-i-mmee) northward, along a levee for a day, then through a wilderness management area, then a long road walk, back into the wilderness. After having hiked along the paved bike path on the dike for a few days and on the road the few days before that, I was ready to get back to the trail, where I felt more at peace, and could glimpse some stunning vistas in the forest and along the river, and maybe even photograph some of the local flora and fauna. I got more than I ever could have expected
How refreshing it was to finally get back into the wilderness, or at least what is locally referred to as wilderness. I learned later, just as I was about to part from the Kissimmee, that in the early 1900’s, the corps of engineers literally straightened the bends in the river, to promote more waterflow for the sake of crop growth. The effects were devastating, and much habitat and wildlife was wiped out in the aftermath, trickling (really not trickling at all) all the way down through the Everglades. The Army Corps of Engineers now has plans to restore the bends in the river to their original location as closely as possible, and with advances in environmental science and satellite imagery, I believe that the proposal is well justified, but man I hope our foresight is better this time. Otherwise, Central and Southern Florida will never see a proper balance between mankind and nature.