“We are Grey. We stand between the darkness and the light.”
Delenn, Babylon 5
We like to make meaning out of things – in fact, we can’t avoid doing it.
When we write, we write facts, bullet points, objective statements. But when we remember our past and imagine our future, we don’t think in bullet points. We remember the story.
I might ‘write graduated in 2000′, but when you ask me to remember my graduation I remember the story; who was there, what we did, the happy relief I felt and the optimism I faced my future with.
So we try to make meaning twice, once with the stories we tell ourselves, second with the patterns we sift through in our stories; touching a flame means pain, getting recognition means you must be doing something right, if I get my goal it means the law of attraction works and if I didn’t it means I didn’t intend hard enough.
But in our quest to make life understandable and thus manageable, we forget that life isn’t a clear division between black and white – that real life includes a rich multitude of grays. The field of personal development is one that makes this mistake in abundance, either for lack of thought or ignoring it for the sake of making bigger claims for a best-selling book.
Photo by Mr. Theklan.
We look for answers in other people’s stories, that if they did such and such, we should do such and such and hopefully get the same results they did.
But expecting to apply the same principles that makes someone successful to every life is like adding sugar to every dish just because it’s the common element that makes cakes taste sweet. There are so many variables that get swept away by that one generalization that the end result becomes ridiculous.
But then again, sugar works too, just as there are times it doesn’t. Here’s another area of gray that often gets smoked up in our quest for clear meaning; just because it isn’t always so doesn’t mean it’s always so.
It can be useful to apply what we believe are patterns of success to improve ourselves. Do good work, be good to people and stay positive. You can hardly disagree with that. So why think about the times when it just ain’t so – when people don’t do good work, aren’t good to people, are negative and still get what they want – especially when it takes a lot more mental gymnastics?
I’ve become convinced that a lot of mental blocks we suffer stem from this duality mentality; when we try to force a black and white map of the world on a world that’s stubbornly full of gray and can’t reconcile the differences.
When in fact the more complexity you can handle, the more aware you’ll become, and the closer you come to wisdom.
“The Vorlons have a saying: understanding is a three-edged sword. Your side, their side, and the truth.”
John Sheridan, Babylon 5