Current Issue

Balance: Parabola Volume 45, No. 3, Fall 2020

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

Table of Contents

The Natural Order of Things Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Finding balance in an unstable world

Lucky Man Tracy Cochran
Life lessons from William Segal: businessman, artist, seeker

Circle Magic Dery Dyer
A celebration of the great wheel of existence

“Find Noor Sher. Noor Sher knows.” James Opie
Dealing carpets with a remarkable man in old Afghanistan

Distributing the Weight Mark Nepo 
Helping each other to carry the load

Yoga and Life Annie Schliffer 
How the inner and outer find their places

The Golden Ratio Julie J. Morley
It gives form to the Milky Way, to a sunflower and more

Demetrio Braceros and the New Trail of Hope Richard Whittaker
Art blooms in a San Francisco park

Every Gesture Counts Rabbi Eliezer Shore
Jewish wisdom on what connects us all

The Universe was a Cosmos Admiral Richard E. Bird
On a polar night, he heard the music of the spheres

To Find the Middle Way Matthieu Ricard, Christophe Andre, Alexandre Jollien
A wise path runs between push and pull, effort and surrender

Ayni: Living Life in the Round Patricia Soledad Llosa 
Giving and receiving in a Bolivian marketplace

Creating Balance in the Garden Martin Mosko and Alxe Noden
Cultivating the sacred in your own backyard

To Serve the Future J.G. Bennett
“It is possible for mankind to be born again”

Learning Your Balance Point Solala Towler
Advice and exercises on aligning with the Tao

Moon Woman Vision David R. Kopacz, M.D., and Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow)
From the lunar disc, magic comes

How to Bake a Scripture Cake Anonymous
Joyful recipes from the Pennsylvania Dutch


The Nightingale Hans Christian Andersen / Fairy tale
Retold by Betsy Cornwell


In Search of Bombadil Keith Badger
Tracking Tolkien’s Keeper of the Forest

book reviews

Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, & Exercises Joseph Azize
Reviewed by Cynthia Bourgeault

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life David Brooks
Reviewed by Patty de Llosa

Sacred Mounds Jim Metzner
Reviewed by Lee van Laer