Ballerina Style

by Father Nathan Miller | Source:

At the age of 6 Alice watched the grownup girls gracefully twist and twirl on the dance floor, warming up for a performance of Swan Lake. She looked down wistfully and drew a line on the carpet with her big right toe. She couldn't stand on her toes, but they did so with charm. “If only I could learn….”

    Her uncle Fred had asked her last week: “Alice, would you like to become a ballerina?” She didn’t know what to say—She had never seen a ballerina before! Now she stood hand-in-hand with her uncle, backstage to the Royal Opera House in London, watching the beautiful profis get ready to glide before the audience.

    On their way home, uncle Fred’s ear was filled from the back seat of the car. Alice chattered cheerfully: “I would be the fairy; I would carry a wand, I would twirl even higher...” You would have thought she had been training for years. Talking about it made her cheeks blush pink.

    But her ecstasy was short lived.

    “You? Dance? Why, you can’t even carry a glass of water to the table without spilling half on the floor!” David, her older brother, just laughed in her face. “A ballerina?” Then he changed his pitch to a high shrill girly voice, singing out and dancing: “I’m a ballerina.” And he proceeded to stumble and fall into the next room.

    Tears filled Alice’s eyes. She knew it was true! She had always been clumsy, but wasn’t there a way?


You and I face decisions and obstacles every minute of every day. We are tempted to focus on one extreme, and forget the other. “I am clumsy!” however, is just as much true as “I could be the fairy Godmother!” If one is taken without the other, then Alice will never stand on her toes. If both are taken and a balanced solution found, progress will be possible. 

    St. Teresa of Jesus begins her work The Interior Castle with a similar picture, one necessary for the advancement of every soul on the path to perfection. “I am a sinner!” and “the Castle of my soul is a mansion capable of beauty beyond imagining!”

    Yet extremes can be complementary. Alice first realizes how horrible clumsiness is by contemplating the beautiful profis. And by seeing her inability to stand on her toes, she is drawn to start practicing so that some day she can. One image motivates her, the other demands that she practice.

    This is just one example of balancing extremes. Our lives are filled with thousands of them, in every decision we make.

    The purpose of this blog is to point them out, pin them down, and to help us learn to take the balanced approach; right down the middle of the tightrope, to the other side.

Fr. Nathan is editor of

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