I have come to an important realization I think. And it’s not to say that I didn’t sort of know this already, but there’s a difference in knowing something and really knowing it.
We’ve all seen these dichotomies: the zone defense or man-to-man, materialism or spiritualism, unrestrained capitalism or comprehensive socialism, cardio or strength training, STEM or liberal arts, the Right or the Left… And we all have at least one or two thoughts on these things. If you’re like me, though, you’re not reducible to a multiple choice form, particularly one with only two answers. The truth is that we’re all unique, and even when we do align on some big picture issue, the motivations behind our choices are often distinct. Even when we agree, it’s often for different reasons.
But we live in the age of convincing. We always have, of course. There is nothing unique about the fact that in the present historical moment we are berating one another right, left and center over the ways that we think, feel, and encounter the world and one another. The failure on our part is not in thinking there’s a right answer, but in thinking there’s only one right answer. And this is the knowledge to which I’m returning.
Wherever we’re each at in our exploration of who we are, is the right answer for each of us. It’s a hard pill to swallow, because some people are in a place of self-exploration that requires the people around them to suffer. Something ought to be done about that, we think. But what’s really tricky here is that before we get all the way down the chains of causation that lead to the accruing and exercising of power over others in a manifest way, we pass this little place called the need to be right, and what we seldom realize is that the need to be right comes at the expense of others, too. You’re on my side, or you’re one of them. All our difficulties stem from this, from our inability to wrap the cloak of inclusion around everyone.
The crux of the matter for me is whether we’re living in a world that is simply happening to us, or one that responds to the movement of who we are being, and who we are becoming. This might be restated as suggesting that we either live in a zero-sum game, or we live in an open-ended movement of creation. My opinion is that we live in the latter, but when I forget this, and act as if I live in the former, then antagonisms necessarily develop.
In the zero-sum version of reality it is necessary to assert one’s particular views with the degree of force that is acceptable to one’s conscience, because this is the means by which the desired outcomes are obtained. We’ve set some boundaries on the sorts of force that civilized humans are able to bring to bear upon one another, but within those boundaries we are quite tenacious. And having boundaries doesn’t change the fundamental condition under which we labor. That condition is one of limited views in conflict.
Part of my discovery is that there simply is no wholeness in conflict. When I slip into the zero-sum version of reality, I am myself conflicted, sliced in two, and ineffectual. In the interactive version of reality—the version in which we are all related, in which the countless dialogues between the individual and the Whole somehow yield the multi-dimensional fabric of daily life, a curated experience of being supplied to each one of us—there is a unique sort of freedom on offer. It is the freedom of comprehending that reality is working.
The tremendous difficulty in accepting this freedom is that it implies a tacit complicity with all the evils of the world. There’s this idea that if certain things that obtain in our world were resolved, then things would be pretty good. It hinges upon the notion that if we could somehow convince those people out there who are doing screwed-up, awful things, or even just innocently deluded things—which if you think about it, amounts to the same thing—then we could get things on track. And in a zero-sum reality, this is perfectly correct.
But when one offers the benefit of the doubt to reality itself, and allows for the fact that reality is working, then one begins to understand that our efforts to change other people is identical to having our cake and eating it, too. In other words, a world in which we remain precisely who we think we are on every level, but without the collective difficulties we face, may not be a possible world. The difficulties may simply be symptomatic of our incomplete understanding of who we are. They are simply the feedback—as immutable as the effects of gravity on a bouncing ball—the effect of the cause, which is our ignorance.
The acknowledgment that reality is working simply takes the edge off. It doesn’t mean to suggest that the difficulties we see are not worth tackling, but it frees us to express who we are without getting everyone else on board first. And I think it is this freedom—the possibility of offering the gift of who we are on behalf of everyone, and expressing the clarity of our hearts without becoming mired in the need to correct or push down another, that will ultimately transform this experience for everyone. Because this type of movement is undivided, and whole, and true.