I've been quite enamored of this word, poise, for some time now (I come to it via the great Lohren Green and his Poetical Dictionary). It is the ideal posture for life, for living: it neither leans into nor away from things as they come. Poise maintains itself.
And yet it is never fixed. It is not stoic. It adjusts to the world but without abandoning itself to the world. It holds steady amidst the storm but not in an unyielding way: poise bends without toppling.
Poise is quietly active. For while still in a certain sense, it nevertheless is always moving with a world in motion, always ready for whatever may come, always handling what does in fact come. It makes me think of the nomad: always on the move, always at home.
It is a great posture for taking up the world, a posture for going with the world for it maintains itself while still extending itself to others.
It quite different than, say, clumsy which comes to the world through collision. This is not to say clumsy is bereft of its charms — on the contrary. There is something to be said for the good bump. Indeed, sometimes it is only by feeling the weight of things, and having things feel our weight, that we can come to know the world.
Which is to say, poise is not the only posture of good living. There are times when poise does not suffice, times when utter abandon are called for, are called forth — a Dionysian surrender to the moment.
There are madnesses well worth embracing, madnesses that let us see and know and enjoy and relish, madnesses that push us out of our poise, knock us down or make us lean way too far forward, beautifully far forward, awkwardly far forward, madnesses and desires and frenzies that extend us, make us reach beyond ourselves, beyond what we thought possible. Such is one beauty of drugs: they push us beyond ourselves to become ourselves.
Ah, but poise: poise is not the bourgeois counterpoint to madness. Poise is not so proper. It is complex, difficult, and exquisite. The word itself tickles my fancy, the always sensual p giving way to the squishy erotics of the oi before sliding a bit on an s that suggests the presence of a z. It is closed, then, but not so securely: it is open, just a tad, on both ends and wobbling a bit in the middle.