Saturday, July 14, 2012

Balance vs. fullness [a bit of a rant]

The popularity of using balance as a goal bothers me. Among the pitfalls of using balance as a goal are not recognizing common benefits (and along with this an antagonistic viewpoint where any benefit toward one aspect tends to be viewed as a detriment toward others--"balance" even seems to imply a dualistic perspective) and attempting to establish a single metric which can be applied equitably to all interests.

One problem with a single metric is that it becomes very tempting to choose one that is relatively obvious and easy to measure and apply it is a simple manner. E.g., a balanced taxation proposal might see individual income as an easily measured quantity and apply a flat (equitable by income) tax. However, even a flat tax based on discretionary income might be inappropriate. (Interestingly, a flat tax on assets would seem to have some attractive properties. Such would encourage the use of assets to increase productivity. Unfortunately, assets are more difficult to measure than income [education, aptitude, health, etc. are assets which influence potential productivity] and not all productivity [social good] generates income with which to pay a tax.)

(It is tempting to see this issue as analogous to the issue of the nature of Christ, where the "balance" perspective proposes that Christ's nature is part-human and part-Divine where the "fullness" perspective proposes that his nature is fully human and fully Divine. Such an analogy might be improperly biased in favor of my own perspective rather than seeking an understanding of truth.)

The use of fullness (with the concept of perfection or perhaps complete integrity) as a goal may avoid some psychological/moral issues, but it seems to draw out significant measurement issues (which has the good aspect of forcing thought and recognition of complexity but the bad aspect of potentially disintegrating into a contemplation of [or argument about] measurement rather than adopting a more integrated perspective which recognizes that while establishing measurements helps to clarify goals [at many levels] and estimate progress [and so guide resource allocation, including time], establishing measurement is a servant of other aspects [while the other aspects likewise submit to measurements]).

When using perfection (fullness/integrity) as the goal, one must also maintain a sense of context. A human goal of perfection takes into account finitude. A result that is perfect at a given time may easily be a very poor result if the achievement of that result is necessarily delayed by resource limits. Likewise a dependence on grace seems to be necessary (this may be related to Martin Luther's "sin boldly"). Knowing that even stupid failures (and many failures are 'recognized' as stupid in hindsight) are not damning provides a freedom to strive for perfection rather than being paralyzed by uncertainty (the measurement problem)--or even the certainty of failure (the recognition of inadequacy)--or settling for a safe result (like burying the talent [Matthew 25:24-30]).

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis wrote "The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection." This is not a paralyzing perfectionism (which is a significant issue for me), but a call not to stop being a soldier until the war is won. Such a seeking of perfection not only motivates a full commitment of effort (sometimes enabling success) but sometimes produces an accidental success beyond expectation.

(My own perfectionism--both from uncertainty of what should be done and from perception of inadequacy--very often leads to inactivity, which is very far from the striving for perfection that is the human calling. On the positive side, a more proper fondness for perfection may be involved in my perfectionism--i.e., my perfectionism may in part represent a corruption of a particular gift of affection for the highest and best.)

Of course, the very use of "vs." in the title demonstrates how easy it is to fall into an antagonistic (rather than holistic) perspective.

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