- Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction. [Erich Fromm]
- The strictest law sometimes becomes the severest injustice. [Widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin.]
Not just in politics but in life, proportion is an important value, which is related to judgment.
Opposites include extremism.
True narratives about economic justice for workers:
- Sanora Babb, On the Dirty Plate Trail: Remembering the Dust Bowl Refugee Camps (University of Texas Press, 2007).
- Laura Hapke, Sweatshop: The History of an America Idea (Rutgers University Press, 2004).
- Janet Zandy, Liberating Memory: Our Work and Our Working Class Consciousness (Rutgers University Press, 1994).
With China's emergence as an economic power, the United States is newly concerned about the balance of economic and military power.
- Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (Random House, 2010).
- Toshi Yoshihara and James R. Holmes, Red Star Over the Pacific: China's Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy (Naval Institute Press, 2010).
- Bernard D. Cole, Great Wall at Sea: China's Navy Enters the Twenty-First Century (Naval Institute Press, 2010).
- Richard D. Fraser, Jr., China's Military Modernization: Building for Regional and Global Reach (Praeger, 2008).
Some people's idea of balance may be other people's idea of the ridiculous. Commonly, propagandists promote an ideal in direct contravention to its expression.
- Joseph Minton Amann and Tom Breuer, Fair and Balanced, My Ass!: An Unbridled Look at the Bizarre Reality of Fox News (Nation Books, 2007).
- Peter Hart, The Oh Really Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003).
- Al Franken, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (Dutton/Penguin, 2003).
- John Dean, Conservatives without Conscience (Viking Adult, 2006).
- Will Bunch, Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future (Free Press, 2010).
- Deborah R. Jaramillo, Ugly War, Pretty Package: How CNN and Fox News Made the Invastion of Iraq High Concept (Indiana University Press, 2009).
- Eric Boehlert, Lapdogs: How the Press Lay Down for the Bush White House (Free Press, 2006).
Artificial economic bubbles are notorious for leading to calamity:
- Christopher Knowlton, Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought On the Great Depression (Simon & Schuster, 2020): “Many paid for their sins, largely through crippling alcoholism, personal bankruptcy and extreme public humiliation.”
- Andrew Marantz, Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation (Viking, 2019): “‘Antisocial’ is about ‘web-savvy bigots,’ ‘soft-brained conspiracists’ and ‘mere grifters or opportunists,’ but it’s also about Marantz’s searching attempt to understand people he describes as truly deplorable without letting his moral compass get wrecked.”
In the 1920s the United States lived under a Constitutional Amendment that banned alcoholic beverages. Spurred by "temperance societies," this episode in history, ironically, exemplifies intemperance.
- Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (Scribner, 2010).
- Garrett Peck, The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet (Rutgers University Press, 2009).
Documentary and Educational Films
- Jasper Johns, Target with Four Faces (1955)
- M.C. Escher, Symmetry Watercolor, 55 Fish
- M.C. Escher, Symmetry Watercolor 70 Butterfly
- Wassily Kandinsky, Balancement (1925)
- Giotto, Temperance (1302-05)
- Paul Klee, Portrait of Mrs. P in the South (1924) (notice the hat size)
- Nicolas Poussin, Helios and Phaeton with Saturn and the Four Seasons (ca. 1635) (Phaeton’s aspirations were beyond his reach)
- Nicolas Poussin, Midas and Bacchus (1629-30) (Bacchus grants Midas’ wish that all he touches turns to gold – which is inedible)
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Two minimalists have highlighted the idea of symmetry:
To my ears, twentieth century piano trios outside the lingering tradition of French romanticism do not convey as clear a sense of attentive listening as do their nineteenth century counterparts; they seem distracted by the concerns of their era. Still, they strike a scrupulous balance between the three instruments.
Though they were written early in the Romantic era, Schumann’s piano trios are more nearly like those of the twentieth century than they are like their contemporaneous works. Perhaps this reflects the composer’s bouts with depression. Listen to the works, then, for Schumann’s balance among the instrumentalists, and note how his tone lightens in the third trio.
- Schumann, Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 63
- Schumann, Piano Trio No. 2 in F major, Op. 80
- Schumann, Piano Trio No. 3 in G minor, Op. 110
In these Vivaldi operas, everyone is forgiven at the end, so it all balances out – or not.
- Bajazet, RV 703 (1735)
- Orlando finto pazzo, RV 727 (1714)
- Orlando furioso, RV 728 (1727)
- L’Olimpiade, RV 725 (1733)
- Ercole sul Termodonte, RV 710 (1723)
- Weber, Der Freischütz: an allegory about putting things in perspective, and forgiving (performances conducted by Matacic, Carlos Kleiber, and Hauschild)
- Ferroud, Serenade
- Frankel, Symphony No. 8, 53 (1971)
- Mozart, Il Sogno di Scipione (Scipio's Dream), K126 (1771): Scipio must choose between wealth and stability, personified by Fortuna and Costanza.
Alvin Ayler presented simple melodies, interspersed with wild creative improvisational jazz riffs.
- “Spirits Rejoice” album (1965)
- “Spiritual Unity” album
- “Goin’ Home” album
- “Slugs’ Saloon” album
- “The Copenhagen Tapes” album
- “Holy Ghost: Rare and Unissued Recordings” set
In the meantime, while some sang, the rest talked together tumultuously all at once; it was no longer anything but noise. Tholomyès intervened. "Let us not talk at random nor too fast," he exclaimed. "Let us reflect, if we wish to be brilliant. Too much improvisation empties the mind in a stupid way. Running beer gathers no froth. No haste, gentlemen. Let us mingle majesty with the feast. Let us eat with meditation; let us make haste slowly. Let us not hurry. Consider the springtime; if it makes haste, it is done for; that is to say, it gets frozen. Excess of zeal ruins peach-trees and apricot-trees. Excess of zeal kills the grace and the mirth of good dinners. No zeal, gentlemen! [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume I – Fantine; Book Third – In the Year 1817, Chapter VII, The Wisdom of Tholomyés.]
Tempering medieval justice:
Every city during the Middle Ages, and every city in France down to the time of Louis XII. had its places of asylum. These sanctuaries, in the midst of the deluge of penal and barbarous jurisdictions which inundated the city, were a species of islands which rose above the level of human justice. Every criminal who landed there was safe. There were in every suburb almost as many places of asylum as gallows. It was the abuse of impunity by the side of the abuse of punishment; two bad things which strove to correct each other. The palaces of the king, the hôtels of the princes, and especially churches, possessed the right of asylum. Sometimes a whole city which stood in need of being repeopled was temporarily created a place of refuge. Louis XI. made all Paris a refuge in 1467. [Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris, or, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), Volume II, Book Ninth, Chapter II, “Hunchbacked, One Eyed, Lame”.]
Film and Stage
- Chocolat, about the importance of keeping things on an even keel
- What’s Eating Gilbert Grape: a story of a young man whose sense of family responsibilities leaves him no room for himself
- The Pillow Book, this offbeat film that goes out of its way to challenge the viewer “is best watched as a richly sensual stylistic exercise filled with audaciously beautiful imagery, captivating symmetries and brilliantly facile tricks.”
- Coco: the underlying message here is about the balance between personal ambition and family obligation.
Loved a little, Worked a little…
Those were very fortunate people,
Who considered Love an obligation,
Or they just loved their task,
I remained busy all my life,
Loved a little, worked a little,
Sometimes love was a snag in the way of my work,
While sometimes duty didn’t allow me to love with passion,
Ultimately I got upset of the situation,
And left both my love and my work incomplete.
[Faiz Ahmed Faiz, “Loved a little, Worked a little”]
From the dark side: