During these winter solstice days, I'd like to share one of my very favorite insights from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus:
"It is disease that makes health pleasant, hunger that makes fullness good, and weariness that makes rest sweet."
There is a lot to think about in these words, and obviously this insight can be interpreted in several ways. But today I believe the creative strategy Heraclitus has in mind is:
Heraclitus is saying that we don't fully appreciate something until we have thought about or experienced its opposite. For example, success is more rewarding if we've tasted defeat, life more precious if we've been close to death, and love dearer if lost and regained.
As the German novelist Hermann Hesse put it, "Any life expands and flowers only through division and contradiction. What are reason and sobriety without the knowledge of intoxication? What is sensuality without death standing behind it? What is love without the eternal enmity of the sexes?"
Expressed another way, piano virtuoso Artur Schnabel once explained the secret of his artistry by saying, "The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes — ah, that is where the art resides!" The 13th-century Sufi poet Rumi had a similar insight, "Every craftsman searches for what's not there to practice his craft."
So, the questions this insight suggests are: What's “dark” or missing in your current situation? How does it shed light on what is there?
For me personally, the short days shed light on the many good things that have happened to me this year. This includes the health and well-being of my family and the people close to me.
I'm also quite grateful for the many opportunities I've had this year including travel to Japan, China, Vietnam, and Morocco; getting the Ball of Whacks to market; participating in the FINA World Masters Swimming Championships; and diving into the blogosphere (finally) and meeting some very interesting people from all over the world.
To all who read this: may the light shine on you!