Life and the universe conspire to often teach a lesson, to test our conviction, to throw our own words back into our faces. I doubt there has ever been a person alive who did not feel, often, that they were being shown their own hypocrisy by reality. I don’t know about you, but there is quite a few moments when I wonder if I’m a fake. Its always when i have decided to take the easy way out that this hits me. When I choose to see someone as good or bad instead of seeing them as a person with all the possibility that such a being entails, there is that twinge, that little voice saying “you know there is more to it than that”.
One of the benefits of getting a little bit older, of being just past that last adrenaline tinged muscular edge of adolescence is the sudden and strange revelation that you don’t really know everything. Which is not to say that one feels like they don’t know anything (getting to that point takes a lot more practice) , but that at least there creeps into the edge of our thoughts, our cherished belief systems, our stark and strong and clear definitions of the world the realization that maybe, just maybe, that things are not quite so simple as they seem.
We are given a choice then, to continue to act as if everything is black or white, good or bad, for or against. As a solution to life it is a simple one, and like all simple solutions it has the beauty of being succinct and it allows us to feel right and firm in our beliefs. It defines like the black line of a cartoon outlines a character so you know he or she is not the door or the other characters. In this way of living we are US, and everything else is THEM. The more we examine this the more THEM everything and everyone becomes, closer and closer we define who is or isn’t US til even those who agree with us are THEM and then even those we love and care about get a little THEM-y as well. It can get very lonely being the only one who is “right” all the time
The other way is a little more complicated, and like all complicated solutions it is muddy, it’s not sure, it is full of self-doubt, of revision and it doesn’t allow us to be so sure of , well, anything really. It is not fast either, it requires of us time and effort, it lacks clear signposts and there is no uniform to put on and say “I am this”. There are no lines around us, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between us, the door, the other characters. If you looked at the choices on paper it would certainly seem the scarier way to go, but there is something funny about going this way. The more we examine this way of living the less everyone looks like a THEM (and the less we look like an US). We realise that the clear, easy, black and white distinctions we try to carry around like a shield don’t really work because they are not true. The easier life becomes without the burden of carrying all these definitions around with us, without fighting off what is clearly before us even if it doesn’t agree with our cherished definitions.
As children we require a simple world while our mind gathers the experience to make sense of its surroundings, then as adolescents we test our new-found insights against this very world we have lived in up til then and discover the ones which will and wont work (no wonder the 14 to 20 year olds world it’s so dramatic and stressful!) This is as it should be, but then we go wrong so very often. We don’t want to let go of that sure thing, that world where everything is defined at a glance, where the idea that we can be in the middle of something and not on one extreme edge or another is too frightening, too hard, too close to chaos in our minds. We go back to being children, back to the school yard where everything is so clear, where you can love this and hate that just because you want to without thinking about what that really means. Where our definition fo things, of what is right or wrong, of what is beautiful or ugly are all that matters and never-mind if they are just something we made up. We construct a little set of rules for the world and suffer when it wont play by them.
I learned this the hard way, I did it well into my 30’s. I still slip into it all the time, 30 years of conditioning is not going to go away overnight. And it is a painful place to be, it hurts to be so apart from reality, it causes me to suffer when I take the easy, lazy way out. Eventually I had to start to grow up in my view of the universe for the same reason I had to stop wearing clothes I had as a little boy; because they didn’t fit anymore. Thinking like a child, seeing the world in duality, is like trying to cram some size 2 toddler shoes on your grown up feet, its suffering for all of us and it isn’t necessary.