I’ve been very kindly invited to be part of a synchroblog that is blogging this month on the topic of duality. Other participants are listed at the bottom. The entries I have read are phenomenal and I encourage you to read them. These are my thoughts on how the way we look at the world – whether too much in terms of such traditional dualities as good versus evil or perhaps in a way that does not recognize the value of opposites — affects our ability to respond to everyday situations in an effective and positive way. Most people see duality and other such models as descriptions of the universe that are true or not, unchangeable and outside of our control. This blog is all about seeing the spirituality in everyday life, the practical side of things, especially as it relates to ordinary women’s lives. I won’t be talking about extreme events like genocides or hate crimes — though these are unfortunately too much a part of life for too many people — but the kinds of situations that arise in most people’s everyday lives. So, let’s change our way of thinking, be our powerful selves, and choose how we want to see the world at any particular time.
I would like to give a gift to each reader of this blog post. It isn’t an actual gift that you can hold in your hands, but rather one to keep in your imagination until you need it. It is a kaleidoscope. Turn the wheel and you can move from seeing any situation from a traditional dualistic point of view, especially one where everything can be categorized using such judgmental labels as good or evil, to a perspective that values everyone and everyday life as sacred and creative in its own way. Turn it the other way and the opposites in life come into clearer focus.
In my experience, almost nothing is as destructive in everyday situations than for people to take morally dictated, absolute stances. “That act is sinful.” “What you said is unforgivable.” “Making that choice is immoral.” These may not be the words used, but the meaning is the same, and it is not just one group or those with a particular viewpoint who practice this. Some of the people I have heard voice such stances would be called conservative fundamentalists, others would consider themselves to be liberal and free-thinking. Dividing the world into two – good versus bad or evil, worthy versus unworthy, sinful and holy, enlightened or ignorant – is a way of looking at the world, not a particular philosophy of life. And please let me reiterate again that there are some extreme actions that deserve labels like “evil” — but I’m talking about the things that happen in everyday life that may rightly or wrongly cause irritation or disagreement, but not much more.
I doubt I need to express what happens when people think this way unnecessarily – positions get entrenched, relationships get severed, people become ostracized, tiny misunderstandings become lifelong feuds. I have known parents who have not spoken to adult children for decades because of a fight no one can even remember anymore. I’ve seen young teenagers tossed out onto the street for choosing the wrong boyfriend or girlfriend even though they will likely be onto someone else within a couple of weeks. I’ve heard a mother say that her daughter deserved to be killed if she attended a protest rally she disagreed with.
Unfortunately, in our culture, taking these stances is often considered to be a sign of moral strength. The more situations you can find to take an absolute stance on, the more righteous you must be. The more unwavering you are in your feeling of superiority over whomever you consider to be the wrongdoer, the better human being you are. I know I do it everyday. Maybe you do it, too.
Let’s put this kind of thinking away for a moment and turn the kaleidoscope so that we look at situations through the lens of valuing everyone’s sacredness and creative uniqueness.
First of all, overdone moral indignation fades right away when everyone is considered to be first and foremost sacred and unique. You can’t put someone into a box when their inherent value as a human being far overshadows any label on that box. Your family member or friend becomes a wonderful, fascinating human being who may disagree with you or say something she or he shouldn’t have, but who is not an alien being who is evil or immoral.
When we stop considering everyday actions to be part of great battles such as those over good and evil or morality and immorality, we see that most things that happen are just one of many interactions or events that we will encounter every day. Most times people are just being their imperfect selves or doing the best that they can rather than aligning themselves with heaven or the forces of evil. If we haven’t placed an action or a person in a context that requires an extreme response but just reacted to the situation itself, we can then just let it go or perhaps even appreciate the courage of the action, even if we don’t agree with it. Often, this will then let in compassion and understanding, even improve the relationship. Usually an argument is just an argument, a child’s romantic partner is just another person, and a protest is just a legitimate expression of freedom of speech.
When we look at life as a creative journey, we can view most situations as a positive stop forward because of the lessons learned even if they involve behavior we may not like. We can forgive if that is the appropriate response. More importantly, we can look at our own emotional reactions and consider what they say about our own attitudes that may need to be changed. Maybe the person who started the family argument is right. Maybe objecting to an adult child’s romantic partner tells us that we need to see people in a less stereotypical way. Maybe seeing our child on the evening news should prod us to look at our own views.
These are just a few of the ways that removing the perspective of dualism can help resolve many everyday situations.
But, sometimes duality also has its place. Many aspects of our world do seem to be opposites – male and female, north and south, hot and cold, and more. Without these dualities, we would not exist and our world would be monotonous and stagnant. Imagine a world of only day, or winter, or only one gender. Duality is Divinity’s way of stirring things up and bringing a little energy to the world.
When you find yourself becoming very, very comfortable, perhaps it is time to turn the kaleidoscope the other way and invite in some opposites. It is so easy to surround ourselves with people who are just like us and place ourselves in situations in which we know just what to do because we’ve done it a million times before. But, when I do that, my life quickly takes on a lethargy – I am bored, nothing is interesting, the things I create are lifeless and routine. When I invite something into my life that is an opposite of what I am comfortable with, my life becomes intriguing again – when I spend time with people who don’t agree with me, when I buy clothes in a color that I would not normally wear, when I write characters into my stories who I don’t understand well enough to predict what they will do.
I know of almost nothing that is as magical as simply looking at a situation differently, whether less or more dualistically. Sometimes an answer to a problem will become immediately clear or a creation will get some instant pizzazz. Most often, though, the experience of simply going outside the ideas we’ve always held makes us into a person who is wiser and who can think more freely and innovatively. Once you use your kaleidoscope a couple of times you will no longer need it, you will be able to zero in and find the right point of view all by yourself.
For more points of view, visit these blogsites that are participating in the Duality Synchroblog.
Between Old and New Moons
Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism
Aquila Ka Hecate
Full Circle News
Frontiers of Wonder
Women and Spirituality
Quaker Pagan Reflections
Dance of the Elements
Manzanita, Redwoods and Laurel
When Isis Rises
~ Carolyn Lee Boyd