May 2016

In Between Two Extremes

“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.

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An Oasis of Self-Destruction


To those who know me as I am: greetings. To those who knew me as who I was: pleasure to meet you.

Time has passed since I have left my home, but I can hardly say that nothing has changed. As more and more time passes, I become the daily stranger that I love to meet. What I thought I knew has faded into ambiguity and what was a hazy shade of gray has turned into a vivid and colorful canvas of experience.

I am not far from where I started. The desert remains as dry and arid as it has been since before we arrived. Which is why I presume questions were asked after I decided to walk away from the oasis. As much as I tried, I could not bear suppressing my curiosity for comfort. I chose to willingly explore the unforgiving and merciless terrain around me. Only someone as foolish as me would make this mistake and leave the comforts of paradise to walk into the mouth of hell.

Within the day I found mirrors whose reflections were unobstructed by my false virtues. From all angles, I saw how my misguided intentions never seemed to work. A lifetime of seeking perfection had left me with disappointing mediocrity. Upon further inspection, I saw that I tried to make dire situations manageable, but in the end only made them worse.

The mirrors did not reflect with an intensity meant to stun. Rather, they mocked in a manner made for me to learn. I took this to heart. If I cannot bear to laugh at my own shortcomings, then surely those who can will do so with a fervor much more passionate than mine.

Leaving the mirrors, I happened upon an acting troupe amongst the dunes. On the stage, they portrayed what I discovered was an unscripted rendition of the history of existence. The director told me that this was just a game that they were playing with titles, props, roles and masks that we all knew in some way.

I’ll never forget his words: “All curtains come to a close eventually. Will we give the kind of performance that demands an encore? Or will we fall by the wayside, as the character who did not know that in the time it takes to make tragedy into comedy, we become the fan favorite by acting as the joker?”

My last encounter was with the watchmaker. In a furious manner, he scrambled on all fours trying to find a missing piece. His responses were worried and panic-stricken. The one true marker of time was slowing down, and if he could not repair it, his world would fall into disarray. Strangely enough, after finding his lost piece, he could no longer identify his sacred clock. He had simultaneously lost his sense of time and purpose. If he could no longer measure his existence on a scale of 1-12, then what did he really have?

In a strangely comforting way, he laughed. It was terrifying to think that what he had based his entire life upon had gone away. He could no longer look forward to the proper passage of time. All he could look into was what was right in front of him; nothing more, nothing less.

Departing from the watchmaker so he could wallow in his depression (or ecstasy?) I wandered into the place from which I write to you now. It bears resemblance to the oasis I once knew. The water ripples as gently as ever, the palms as receptive to a dance with the wind, and the shade as comforting as the embrace of a long lost friend. With all its similarities, it is still incredibly different.

It changes every day. My sensations and perceptions of it remain, but every day the oasis shows to me a new side of its face. What I thought was there moves or disappears completely. Where it goes I have no idea, but in its place comes a replacement that fascinates me even more.

I love it here, but damn does it hurt. It tears me apart. Every. Single. Day. With each new gift and joy to life that I receive, I have to willingly give its equivalent parts that are deepest and strongly rooted in me. I do so most painfully, but also gladly. The sights and wonders that I have marveled upon by allowing it all to display itself before me have made my journey worth it.

Will this ever end? The watchmaker would argue that it is irrelevant. The actors would pay no mind; the scene always changes. I am not sure what the mirrors would show; with so much of myself gone, I would hardly recognize my reflection.

Giving in to my curiosity has been the greatest mistake I have ever made. I do not regret arriving here. I only regret not having arrived here sooner. Some may regard the pain as something to avoid—I cannot blame them. But each day that takes a bit of what I thought was permanent gives me hope that eventually I will be rid entirely of the person that I once knew. All that I know for certain is that setting on this path of self-destruction has been my greatest (and favorite) mistake.

Always in Love and Peace,

Your Old Friend

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