Perfect Record #6 – A Question of Balance

The Moody Blues – A Question Of Balance, 1970

I seem to have made a career out of poking at beliefs and hanging out at the fringe. As Hans Asperger concluded, as reported by Steve Silberman in his wonderful NeuroTribes, his patients were “constitutionally unable to take things on faith.” That’s how it feels for me. Whether I’m chasing UFOs, suspending assumptions in a Dialogue circle, challenging the fundamental impulses of the dominant global culture, unraveling the “perfect storm” of environmental, energy, and economic concerns, questioning the stories and beliefs of my family and friends, diving into the mind-bending fields of quantum physics, idealist philosophy, or the Holographic Universe, or peering inside at my own suite of unquestioned expectations and reactions, I’m at my happiest when I’m taking what it is I’ve been told to believe, turning it over, shaking it around, and breaking it open with a hammer, to see what’s inside.

Personally, while this particular proclivity does feel built into my being, I blame the Moody Blues for egging me on. There I was, a tall, skinny, blonde kid longing to be a hippie, wearing my beads and my bell bottoms and gazing into my blacklight posters (all without the aid of any mind-altering substances, mind you, save for a steady diet of grilled cheese, tomato soup, and tater tots…) and the Moodies come along, asking their questions and challenging my culture’s beliefs, using beautiful melody, gorgeous harmony, and epic, fascinating instrumentation to ease the pain as their words slid, like knives, into my soul:

Why do we never get an answer?
Will they save us in the end, we’re trembling on the brink.
Who’s the biggest fool of all?
While your load was so heavy, you never wanted to stop.
I’m really not so sure which side of the bed I should lay.

I remember standing in my basement bedroom, a cool, damp space to which I’d moved in order that I could have a space that was truly my own. I remember playing this LP over and over. I remember staring at the cover. I may even have been swaying a bit to the music. And I remember those lyrics, moving me, calling to me, pestering me with their brilliant insistence. Here were the big questions of life, the universe, and everything: questioning the world, the war, the environment, the political situation, and speaking of things out of balance, and the balance to be found. And here were some messages just for me:

No reason to hide from what’s true.
It’s all right.
Listen to the one who sings of love.
Wake up in the morning to yourself and leave this crazy life behind you.
All the world astounds me and I think I understand.

And then would come the last song, Balance, with Mike Pinder’s calm, gentle spoken voice, the simple acoustic guitar, the quiet, epic strings, the soaring background vocals, and that powerful sung chorus:

Just open your eyes and realize the way it’s always been.

If I’d been able to cry back then, I would have cried. Because I am able now, I do. It’s taken me a lifetime of study, training, practice, mistakes, and repeated attempts to even begin to deeply feel what the Moodies were trying to tell me so long ago. Slowly, I’ve “learned compassion.” And very slowly, I have been “answered.” I’ve long been astounded by the world. But now, it does feel like there are things that “I think I understand.” And the album cover’s imagery is reflected in one of the central themes of my novels: the possibility, as the human world shifts or unravels in the face of environmental limits, that we can also “reach up to the stars.”

When all the stars are falling down
Into the sea and on the ground,
And angry voices carry on the wind,
A beam of light will fill your head
And you’ll remember what’s been said
By all the good men this world’s ever known.

2 Comments for “Perfect Record #6 – A Question of Balance”

Susan V.

says:

Thanks for sharing, I was a huge fan as well, had this and all their albums. Their music was a huge solace for me as well and Mike Pinder was my favorite member. One of my high school friends made fun of them, and me for liking them!

Timothy Scott Bennett

says:

Yeah. It’s fascinating, how attached people get to their favorite things, and how threatened they are by differences. I know, for myself, that I used to be way more judgmental about certain forms of music, though my judgments were against the most mainstream stuff. It took me a long time to loosen up, and I found some really great artists that I would never have listened to before. These days, I listen to all sorts of things that are decidedly “uncool.” Totally don’t care. T 🙂

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