Just because your potential is unlimited does not mean that your work to actualize it must be endless.
Somewhere in the rhetoric of becoming who we desire to be, we’ve forgotten the virtues of stillness, of brevity, of the very fine balance between having too much or too little, a dance we all must weave in and out of each day.
The poet Amy Holman has a beautiful piece in which illustrates how important it is to know when it is time to simply let the sun set.
“But they didn’t fill the desert with pyramids,
they just built some.
They’re not still out there,
building them now.
gets up and goes home.”
— Amy Holman
The way one might interpret this piece is that even the most significant and grand human feats in existence did not press on for eternity.
Artists don’t keep painting just because there is more canvas.
Writers don’t keep writing just because there is more paper.
And even the rulers who requested the erection of pyramids to bury themselves and their riches in did not fill the entire desert with them — they just built some.
It calls to mind a quote by Eric Greitens, in which he explains the importance of striking balance between extremes.
“A masterful warrior carries everything she needs and no more, just as a masterful painter uses all of the paint that she needs and no more, and a master chef uses all of the ingredients that she needs and no more. In the same way, a masterful philosopher will use all of the words that she needs and no more. ”
The warrior who carries too much out of fear will be so slowed by the weight on her back that she might not make it anywhere at all.
Without the proper tools and weapons she needs, the fight is over before it has begun.
The painter must learn to work with precisely the amount of material needed on his medium, too much paint would overwhelm the image, and without contrast, no beauty would exist.
Without enough paint, it couldn’t exist either.
The most effective writers among us are able to convey their messages with such brevity and clarity that anyone, even in passing, could absorb the wisdom, as opposed to having to read pages upon pages of theory and prose, a process which most people would find tedious.
Without enough words, the message doesn’t exist.
It’s such a beautiful way of expressing what each of us, deep down, knows is true: we must start, but we also must stop. It is bold to show up and to begin working, it is even braver to know when it is time to end.
True genius is in the subtleties.
Anyone can take something simple and make it more complex, but to take the complex and make it simple? That’s the work of the truly intelligent, truly innovative, and truly exceptional.
It may be less saturating to our senses, but it is the finest balance between beginning and ending, starting and finishing, being open but closed, deep but brief, poignant but swift, timely but evergreen, in which we create the most important things in our lives.
It is not the abundance of anything we are trying to master, but where we find the subtle balance of just enough.