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Fall 2020: Balance

The timeless theme of this latest issue of Parabola is also timely and pressing. In the midst of a pandemic, and environmental, social, and economic disasters, it seems as if our whole world is sliding into imbalance. Can things be righted? What does it mean to be in balance? Rabbi Eliezer Shore invokes the great medieval philosopher Maimonides, who urges us to see “that the slightest movement can make a difference. One positive action pushes the entire world to the side of merit, and one negative action pushes the entire world to the side of debt.” This is a recipe all of us can follow—and for fun this issue includes a recipe on how to bake a “Scripture Cake.”

The essays and stories in this issue reveal, however, that the real cooking is internal and also relational. Contemporary Sufi master Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee guides us to use the dire conditions that face us as an opportunity to awaken to our integral place in the web of life, shedding a life of consumption for a life of community. Opening to the life inside and also around us, we discover that balance is a dance, constantly in movement. In a vivid and touching portrait of his dealings and friendship with an Afghan carpet dealer, James Opie describes a way of life in which interactions are more than business transactions, in which relationships matter as much as goods and gain. That life vanished into the terrible imbalance of war and extremism. The carpet dealer felt this change coming even before the signs were clear, telling Opie: “Often heart know more than head.”

And yet in spite of our imbalance, the universe remains harmonious, “a cosmos, not a chaos,” as Admiral Richard E. Byrd, alone in Antarctica, said as he beheld a winter’s night sky.  May this issue help us all to remember that we are part of that cosmos.

—Tracy Cochran

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Parabola Magazine Volume 45, Number 3: Fall 2020 BALANCE
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