“There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.”—Tom Robbins
“Or” is an incredibly limiting word in the English language. It sets up an illusion of choice. Freewill is guaranteed; so long as it fits certain parameters. It depicts choices as either love or hate. Wellness or illness. Yes or no. This line of thinking is easy to comprehend. This makes our decisions clear cut. It’s easier to understand what makes up one side because we can also picture exactly what it isn’t.
“And” seems to be a bit more realistic. To think about people and situations as having more than one component is an incredibly useful mental framework. Not many consider that we could have love and hate. Wellness and illness. Yes and no
Segmenting and compartmentalizing options into two categories is an oversimplified method of thinking. It takes all of the work out of making a genuine and honest decision. Thinking that we can only gain something after we completely give up its opposite is easy, and it is also rarely the case.
Painting the world black and white is simple if you only have the capacity for two colors. When lines intersect, things can remain the same or become the polar opposite. For those who have only ever known one color, making a sudden switch can be the most frightening decision ever.
When sides are chosen, alliances are made (covertly or otherwise). The decision made alongside a larger group of people is safe. Surely, there must be strength in numbers? With so many people agreeing, it means that a whole lot of perspectives arrive at the same conclusion. Surely, they can’t all be wrong at the same time?
Having to pick a side can stem from fear and love. If my support system has drawn a line in the sand, it would be wise to make sure that I do not stand opposite of them when the going gets rough. Without them, my world disappears. Without them, I become the other. I become what I was always taught to oppose.
Having the opposition unites those who reside at that extreme under the same flag. For some, an identification with an extreme point of view is absolutely necessary. They may have been born, nurtured, and socialized by it. It may be their only known world. That world, at least in their mind, exists only because those on the other side do. As long as they stay on their side we’ll stay on ours. That’s how it’s always been. That’s how it should always be.
Bridging the great divide between left and right is easy. Stepping forward is what’s hard.
Both sides can be right; kind of. What lies in the middle is often the best answer; usually. Stepping forward to admit that we don’t have all of the answers is very difficult to do. If I’ve spent so much time defending my side of the line, anything otherwise makes me lose credibility. I am now neither here or there. I’m in the middle. I’m caught between two extremes.
Living in between two extremes means acknowledging either end and that a combination of both sides is needed in order to make the best decisions. What worked yesterday may not work today. Perhaps I need to move at top speed one day; other days I may have to slow to a crawl. Each side has its merit. Problems arise however when we try to take a curve at full speed; we end up careening off the road and truly move into dire straits.
However, the time does come when extremes are needed. They exist for a reason, and on occasion their answer is the best for the situation at hand. When tides have gone so far to one side, the only way to restore balance is with at least an equal and opposite reaction the other way. A sudden outpouring of light is most welcome when we become enveloped by darkness. Only when we know what that darkness truly looks like will we understand and appreciate what it is to be in the light.
An unquestioned commitment to either side is foolish. The time will come when the opposite end will need to play a role. Ignoring its existence or practicality is a quick way to ensure our demise.
Our world moves as a pendulum does. Most of us like to stay at either end and hold onto the marker when it gets to our side. It becomes our moment in the limelight; an affirmation of our commitment to that side. Sooner or later, the pull from the other side will become much too strong and pull the marker back, continuing the endless cycle.
The best option remains to stay committed to change. That is really the only guaranteed option. Holding on for dear life to a philosophy and outlook that accepts no variation will only crumble under the constant barrage of time. It’s our human nature to see things as “this or that,” but what will ultimately carry us further is a sense of “this and that.” I know it will surely make Tom Robbins proud.