Brandon Smith (Redwoodtwig)

The Perfectly Balanced Path or Tai Chi Dao

"When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." - Buckminster Fuller.

Update, May 2019: Taxonomy finalized.  The diagram with the circular arrangement is what I use to explain how the various aspects of the PBP system work together. 

I strive to write a paragraph or two about at least one of the 127 parts in the PBP structure, usually based on a story that I found online; but also ideas and observations based on walking about the forest garden, working on a physical balance art project, or practicing Taijiquan and related performance arts.  Importing those paragraphs into longer narratives and database creations later.

The basic problem that I've been working on for about 50 years is framed by two questions: Where do I want my path through life to take me (Fulfillment)? And how do I keep my balance while walking that path (Happiness)? {1}

The problem is not the answering of the questions.{2} The problem is how to organize what I know {3} so that the next time those questions appear on the path I'm walking I have a more up-to-date starting point for thinking about fulfillment, happiness, or even the purpose of my life.

The solution I have found is a tool that I can use to organize what I know. A tool that anyone with access to the Internet can use. A tool whose usefulness will be magnified by sharing amongst people who are working on answers to those questions.

I call this tool the Perfectly Balanced Path Journal (PBPJ). The underlying concept is that when you walk the path of life, each step deserves a journal entry, a record of some thoughts about how that step increases or decreases fulfillment or happiness. The tool is useless if you do not consider your life to have at least the purpose of gaining personal fulfillment and happiness.

The tool itself does not define or specify what fulfillment or happiness is, it only allows you to organize your thoughts as journal entries which either state or imply what you think fulfillment or happiness might be. {4}  I'm sure neither you nor I wish to spend enormous amounts of time writing journal entries, especially doing the research to verify, validate or contextualize what we are thinking about our steps on the path of life. So I propose a journal entry can be any number of things, to include video, audio, photos, digital art as well as clippings from the Internet.

However, for the tool to be useful, each journal entry has to fit somehow into the model {5} the Perfectly Balanced Path. Although I use a specific set of 15 words to describe the model, the database backend I've developed will allow you to use your own set of words to define the model, however the basic model structure shown in the graphic will remain in place. Each step on the path of life requires some sort of balance between all the elements in the model. In practical terms, though, most of the journal reading and writing you are likely to do will involve only a few of them.

You can use the tool simply to record your own thoughts, privately or to share with others who use the PBPJ. You can also ask the tool to give you a random selection of keys to read in a structured way similar to the way one uses a tool such as the I Ching or the Tarot. There are dozens of tool out there on the Internet these days that provide similar features. Some are very well done classes, courses, or forums in how to think better, some are merely collections of brain candy. So the PBPJ is yet another knowledge tool (YAKT), adding to the yakity-yak nature of the Internet. I am making an effort to implement a tool that does more than collect mind candy.

If you find this idea interesting, stay tuned. The data model is done, prototypes built and tested, but coding is currently taking second place to other projects in the Redwoodtwig Art Garden Studios, namely the interior finishing of the studio and guest quarters.

PBP Structure

  • Perfectly Balanced Path image

    A mandala of the path of life. The central circle remains stationary around the house, the household and the local environment. The middle and outer circles rotate independently of each other.

  • Presonhood vocabularies

    So far I've got 9 versions of the words used to divide personhood into the six aspects. The base or root vocabulary is the first row. Members of the PBP project will be able to instantiate their own vocabularies.

  • Life Cycle Vocabularies

    The dynamic model of a person also has 6 aspects and at this point 7 alternative vocabularies.

End notes.

{1} Many years ago, when I first tackled the problem, there was a single question: What is the purpose of life? A few years ago, when I found time to start thinking about the problem again, I realized I had answered that question by having walked the path of life for close on to 40 years with a combination of workable long term and short term goals, even though the answers changed from time to time. Sometimes a conscious and deliberate change, sometimes a change due to events beyond my control, and sometimes falling into an change in goals without conscious thought.

{2} I think it fair to say that everyone has answered these two questions at least once, or at least allowed provisional answers to guide how the live. I can recall thinking about these things in high school, though not nearly as much as I found myself thinking about these things while earning a bachelor's degree in (Western) philosophy. But then, adult time arrived and I basically latched on to some beliefs about fulfillment and happiness and proceeded to use them without too much reflection for nearly 40 years. Maybe once every two or three years I'd spend a week or two reflecting on the past, present and future. It is fair to say I've been working on this model since I was 16 or so.

{3} Epistemology is the formal name for the study of knowledge, of how we know what we know. It is a wonderful rabbit hole of philosophical investigation, well worth considerable time doing mental gymnastics and improving abstract thinking skills. What I know consists of two kinds of knowledge: stuff I've learned through personal experience and stuff I've learned indirectly through reading, observation, and conversation. Some of what I know is true to fact, but much of what I know are conclusions that may depend on a belief that has nothing to do with real world facts. Sorting out which is which is a challenge.

{4} In other words, good and evil are not part of the tool, though you will certainly be making or reading journal entries that define them. This means you could use the tool to structure a set of arguments as to why you should commit X, some kind of fulfillment that involves what the rest of us regard as ugly and evil. The initial set of some 200+ journal entries I and FL created are heavily biased toward a fairly conventional secular culturally neutral morality.

{5} My model may be unique, but certainly reflects what I've learned from studying the various models used by thinkers since Socrates, Buddha, Epictetus and Zhang San-Feng, to name a few of the ancients whom I have explored in depth. Some thinkers build explicit models, but most simply talk about human fulfillment and happiness and the model they use is only implied. The Perfectly Balanced Path model is explicit with regard to the structure, but nothing is specified regarding the content other than a few required and several optional meta-data tags to provide context for content.

Notes on the arrangement in the visual.

It would be more accurate to display the 6 parts in a circle since there is considerable overlap between parts in most real life situations. Plus, the arrangement around the star varies from step to step. In the graphic to the left, I had to present the model as if there were some kind of order to the static and dynamic parts. Unlike most other models of the structure of a person, there is no "higher" and no "lower." Each part is equal in importance to any other -- but when taking any specific step on the path of life, normally some parts are in fact more important than others when thinking about how to take that step, or reflecting on how that step was taken.

For example, when I do my morning physical exercise routine, the order showing on the left side of the graphic is about right -- my body is the important part of the static model for this step. However, that step on the path of life is a Doing rather than a Learning kind of activity, unless I'm adding new things to the morning routine. Since the Tai Chi form part of my morning routine requires mind, I'd probably switch where Mind and Heart occur, implying I need more weight on that side than the other. I'd definitely set Head at a lower level, maybe all the way to the bottom, since I need Head and its troublesome chatty monkey mind to shut up while I'm doing my Tai Chi work. After I'm done and my next step is ready to commence, perhaps washing the dishes and making breakfast, I might let Head jump to the top.