Balance, Passion, and the Everyman



The firm house lingers, though averse to square
With the new city street it has to wear A number in.
But what about the brook
That held the house as in an elbow-crook?
I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength
And impulse, having dipped a finger length
And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed
A flower to try its currents where they crossed.
The meadow grass could be cemented down
From growing under pavements of a town;
The apple trees be sent to hearth-stone flame.
Is water wood to serve a brook the same?
How else dispose of an immortal force
No longer needed? Staunch it at its source
With cinder loads dumped down? The brook was thrown
Deep in a sewer dungeon under stone
In fetid darkness still to live and run –
And all for nothing it had ever done
Except forget to go in fear perhaps.
No one would know except for ancient maps
That such a brook ran water. But I wonder
If from its being kept forever under
The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.

-Robert Frost

Like a brook in the city, beneath our civility lies a dormant enthusiast. We spend much of our time talking about Kia Rios and Mini Countrymans, but is this not just a displacement activity for our restless passions? It’s easy to become consumed by the banality of the city, burying our fire deep down inside, but it’s just as easy to become consumed by its opposite. There is the Everyman, there is Passion, but somewhere in between is Balance.

Becoming consumed by the Automotive Passion, or any Passion for that matter, has the effect of creating a distinct reality you can call your own, but also disconnecting you from the world at large. The internet has created a myriad of opportunities for individuals of obscure interests (like the microscopic juncture between cars and philosophy) to find one another, but this can leave people you live with, the people you can hold and touch and love, off somewhere in the distance. While you’re delving ever deeper, dusting off of weighty leather-bound books, you’re also removing yourself from the physical world and inevitably becoming a wild-eyed recluse who forgets how to have a polite conversation.

There’s a small chance that you’ll be able to turn this obsession into something productive, revolutionary even, but the risk is great and the personal payoff debatable. Not everyone can become a Nassim Nicholas Taleb or a Frank Lloyd Wright, nor is such “success” even a desirable side effect. It’s much more likely that you’ll sever your ties to the world in exchange for days spent struggling with ideas that no one else will fully appreciate. The happiness you expected from single-mindedly pursuing Passion, the happiness that we are all taught to expect from this pursuit, will elude you as your mind treads gently among the stars.

Contrast this solitary existence with the soul-destroying drivel of the Everyman. Tim Hortons, the hockey game, someone was murdered, I hate politicians, that celebrity is pregnant. Even conceptualizing it in the 3rd person makes you dumber. The Everyman has no creativity and no hope but it’s dead easy.

Those are the two extremes.

Then there’s Balance. Balance is the sole refuge of happiness and provides the best compromise between making the world a better place and preserving your fragile sanity. If Passion is about an unrealizable goal at the expense of the journey, and the Everyman is about neither journey nor goal, then Balance is about finding the goal in the journey. With Balance, we know we’ll always be torn between the extremes of Passion and the Everyman, always having to make conscious and difficult decisions, but that’s precisely  the point. Balance is going for a drive just because you want to drive, just because you want to feel the feedback from the car and to develop that relationship with not only the machine, but a deeper level of yourself. Balance, then, is not only the goal of your entire life, but each individual component as well.

So find your Balance. Balance your lover, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your work, your hobbies, your health, your bank account, and just for the hell of it, the Ferrari FF.

It’s the only way to beat the brook.

And that’s the Philosophy of Driving for this week. See you next Monday morning!