A Delicate Balance

Great decisions pivot on small points. Where’s The Great Unus to deliver us?


Are you peering through your peephole of life, looking for another Moses to suddenly appear, someone who can part waters, calm fears and call down bread from heaven? Dismiss the illusion. We elected the wrong candidates.

Life hinges on balance. Like the restless motions of molecules, there is no stasis in life. The planet, the tides, the emotions, your life…all are spinning like atoms in space, held together in a delicate balance. Think about it. One hell of a balancing act.

Now even the belief in divine balance is in question. Pandemics can make the best manmade systems look inept, like so much child’s play with Legos or tinker toys. Who can restore the balance, mediate the raging conflicts before the systems go haywire and spin utterly out of control and the Dark Ages descend?

The news is bleak. Things are an entangled mess. Leadership vacillates, dodges, hedges. Reality mingles with optics, confusing the masses. We run from pillar to post, seeking relief, finding none, blaming everyone. Where is The Great Unus (‘Unus’ meaning ‘one’) among us?

Nowhere, that’s where. While my atoms surfed the web, I stumbled across the life of Franz Furtner, an Austrian showman who had a successful career in the circus from the ‘30’s to the 60’s. That was before politics, Disney World and the NFL replaced the circus as crowd amusement.

Franz was known as the Great Unus, famous for his balancing act of one-finger handstands on a variety of global objects. As with all entertainers, like Houdini, he created a lot of speculation about how he was able to balance himself on one finger. He never revealed the secret. (Google him, check out the video. Quite impressive, whether trick or real)

History is littered with so-called Great Ones. Germany had several. But so has the United States. We have several now. Heck, there may be a Great One in your own household. It might even be yourself. We’ve all been ‘great ones’ at one time or another. You know, those days when we were in the zone, our stars in alignment and we were filled with beneficence. Doesn’t take much to quell that delusion.

I knew a fellow who believed he was ‘a great one.’ He was working on an ‘aqua-thermal treatment of ceramics, aluminum and steel under a constrained environment.’ When peeling back the layers of his endeavor, it seems he was only washing dishes with hot water under his wife’s supervision. Being a great one comes in varieties of chimerical illusion.

Now consider this. What if you woke up one day, like Gregor Samsa who found he’d metamorphosed into a giant insect, and discovered you had changed overnight into a prophet, a Great One, one who could walk on water, leap tall buildings, things like that. Suddenly you were a savior. Many called you Moses. Some worshipped you, others sought to stone you.

You were paraded in Rose Gardens, microphones shoved in your face, blames assaulting you like brigades, questions demanding answers for questions that have no answers. Imagine that predicament.

How to placate the masses, calm the protests, preserve life, quell death, finance the failing. There are no answers, only dilemmas. Life hangs in the balance, spinning wildly away from you, and suddenly being called a prophet confers no honor, only burdens. For “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Such is the plight for leadership these days.

Today our leaders are attempting one-finger headstands, legerdemain without clues, groping in the dark for answers, battered left and right, pleasing no one. The delicate balance is real.

For my part I wouldn’t mind waking up to discover I’m a dog. No wallet, no wireless, no watch; no coat, no agenda, just walk out the door, sniff the air, wet the shrub, take a nap. Dogs get more respect than prophets these days.

Sadly, most of the Great Ones have departed. Few are left to bring balance back into focus. In my office is a skeleton. Its name is Lazarus. It’s looking for a resurrection. It sits at the conference table as a reminder of the reality of life such as only skeletons can do.

A couple years ago I wondered if it had been baptized, so I took it down to the ocean and dunked it a few times. It floated. It was then the epiphany hit me. It was a female skeleton, since only women can balance on water.


We’ll learn some lessons about leadership from this pandemic. Do you suppose women could actually walk on water?


Bud Hearn

April 24, 2020