William Butler Yeats wrote in The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand

The center is not holding. The spining vortex of life, politics, morality, and social connections are ripping us apart. We need a construct to get us through these divisive times. We need a middle path.

The Buddha was most powerful teacher of a Middle Way. As explained by Adyashanti, one of my favorite teachers, the Middle Way is not a muddled bland beige that doesn’t take a stand. The Middle Way is even simpler than that. The Middle Way is neither grasping nor rejecting what life offers.

As Adyashanti put it in his book Emptiness Dancing:

The Middle Way has nothing to do with the notion of being halfway between two opposites. The Middle Way is when spirit and matter are in harmony–when the inherent oneness is realized. Spirit and matter are not two different things, they are two aspects of the One.

That’s it. Deal with life as it comes, as it actually is, all of it.

Like Christ’s “love thy neighbor,” the Middle way is one of those profound teachings we can spend our lives studying without full comprehension, but as the economy crumbles and our political systems grind into disfunction, we need a way to understand the world that sees it as it really is.

The Buddha may have been inspired by an ancient song quoted in a recent PBS documentary:

Fair goes the dancing when the Sitar is tuned.
Tune us the Sitar neither high nor low,

And we will dance away the hearts of men.

But the string too tight breaks, and the music dies.
The string too slack has no sound, and the music dies.

There is a middle way.

Tune us the Sitar neither low nor high.

And we will dance away the hearts of men.

Walking the widening gyre at Point Reyes. Tule Elk bottom right. (photo by Kamran Akhavan)