On Monday, March 20 we marked the Spring or Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.
I’ve heard that the spring equinox means that at this moment the sun crosses the celestial equator from South to North.
I don’t understand what that means but I do know that I can now bike home while it’s still light out. I see all around Seattle the flowers are blooming.
I’ve heard that on March 20 there were 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark all over the world. I’ve heard that’s because on the fall and spring equinox the earth’s axis is perpendicular to the sun. I’ve heard that’s unlike every other day of the year when the northern or southern hemispheres are tilting towards the sun or away from the sun.
While I often get confused about all this astronomical stuff, what I know is that I love days of balance like March 20. I love days when everything is even, ordered, all is in it’s place. But this is not normal in the way things actually work on our planet. Except for those two blessed days of balance on the spring and fall equinox, every other day is off balance. Because of that 22 to 24 degree tilt of the earth, the atmosphere flows, the waters swirl, life on earth is dynamic and changing. Static is not the norm and because of that there is life on earth and I am standing here typing this blog post.
As I’ve said, I don’t understand how all this works. But I do know that in working in a large institution like the church that in our DNA as institutions is our aspiration towards balance. The model of the equinox – the earth held in perfect balance of darkness and light – is a model for many of the well run institution. Institutions tend to love stability. Institutions tend to love sameness Sameness helps protect and preserve the status quo and if the status quo looks pretty good from where you’re sitting you will do a lot to maintain it.
However what we also know is that if we stay in sameness life dies. If the earth got stuck in the equinox balance, life would not be as dynamic and balanced. Life would be less varied and interesting. When institutions become stuck in sameness they become irrelevant. Life literally passes us by.
Like life on earth, life in institutions depends on the tilt – on keeping and celebrating what is off-balance. Creative institutions know that in trusting in the dynamic of off-center, we grow and change, life blooms.
I know my own desire to choose stability over innovation, sameness over creativity. I know well my fear of change over the embrace of change. I know my propensity to choose what I know over all that I do not know. I’m learning that the consequence is that my life, my faith, the institutions I am part of don’t swirl and grow and move.
I learned about all this at a new outreach at our church called “Spirit Workshop.” These periodic Sunday afternoon gatherings are designed to get folks like me tilting into thinking and being differently. At the end of the workshop we were asked what we might do in response to what we learned. I made a commitment to play each day. Play for me is about taking things out of the stuck ordinary and well, playing with them – doing them in different ways. And here’s the thing – I will need to schedule my playfulness in order to commit to it. I will need to calendar it to be attentive to it. I will have to choose the tilt.
So today, I again choose a little off-center. I celebrated biking to work in the pouring rain (you have to be playful to enjoy this!), and noticed but didn’t run to fix every off-center feeling or thing I’ve encountered in my day. I risked sharing my sense of being a bit off-center myself in a conversation today.
Yesterday shone bright in Seattle and everyone I saw out on my bike ride called out, “It’s so great that spring is here!” Today, it’s drizzly and gray – this too is spring in Seattle. And because of that flow – because of that tilt – Seattle is flowering pink, white and yellow.
Perhaps off center isn’t so bad. Perhaps you need it as much as I need it for your life to bloom.