Friday, May 27, 2016

This or That?

The first time I remember hearing the term dichotomy was in entomology class in college.  We used a dichotomous key in an attempt to identify random insects.  Here's the scenario:  the professor sets out stations with bugs pinned to a board.  You have a giant manual that asks you a question that has a finite set of unique responses (usually two possibilities but sometimes more).  You pick one of the answers and turn to a page listed that will give you the next question. The next question will have a set of specific finite answers.  And so it goes for a while.  After answering these questions correctly, you are led to a place that tells you without a doubt what kind of little bugger is pinned to that board.   The questions are very specific and require significant knowledge regarding insect physiology.  To use a dichotomous key, you've got to be both knowledgeable about your subject AND committed to getting to a single answer that will be infallibly correct.

The inherent foundation of this methodology, the reason that dichotomous keys are useful, is that everything is wholly defined and known already.  You pick a path and then get led down the decision tree until....wallah!  You know exactly what kind of bug you have.  You get to the one and only answer-problem solved, mystery unveiled.  Zero ambiguity.

What happens if you pick a path and get to the end and the picture is not your bug?  Well...obviously you did something wrong.  Some decision that you made was wrong.  Back up. Start over. Try again.

Not a science geek?  Maybe you experience dichotomy in another area.  Do you like chocolate or vanilla?  Believer in God or atheist?  Democrat or republican?  Heads or tails?  Anything that is supposed to be completely opposite is a dichotomy.

How many times in your life have you thought you had to choose between:

smart girl or fun girl
happy or sad
success or failure
bravery or vulnerability
light or dark
hero or villain
princess or evil witch
strong or weak
saint or sinner
How many times a day did you say to yourself, If I'm this then I can't be that?  If I love that person, then I can't also hate them?  If I want to be a saint then I can't be a sinner.  No room in these ideas for the gray.

I could list these all day.  Ideas that seem to be exact opposites and also pervade my thinking in ways that I am not even aware.

I have spent much of my life boiling most thoughts, feelings, and choices into a dichotomous key.  I have made decisions based on the subconscious belief that there were only two choices and those choices were absolutely distinct.  If I pick the left path, I will end up in a place of complete and utter wholeness, goodness, light and validation.  If I pick the right path, I will end up in a place of loneliness, evil, dark, and discontent.  Either/or.  This or That.

 Here's the thing that I am realizing and trying hard to hold in the place called acceptance...when I boil everything down to a dichotomy, I loose some of the beauty inherent in this mystery called life.

 All those distinctions between this and that....those distinctions don't necessarily exist in the clear cut, black and white way that I believed they existed.  They certainly don't exist within my soul in that kind of clear cut path.  In fact...most things that I believed were distinct and clear cut....actually exist within me in equal measure of giant mixed up goop.

I am a success.  
I am a failure.  

I am brave.  
I am vulnerable.  

I am strong.  
I am pretty f*ing weak. 

All at once. 
All together.  

The more I try to only shine up the one side of that coin...the dirtier, more real the other side gets.

Want the world to only see you as strong?
Guess who's showing off their biggest weakness to the world.

Want to always be the hero?
How many bystanders have to get taken out behind the scenes so no one knows you're fallible?

Don't agree?  Let's apply this to some of the basic human experiences.  Is it possible to be both happy and sad?  Sure.  Look at any parent of a graduating senior.   Bittersweet is a word that describes more than chocolate.

What about good and bad?  Can we be both good humans and bad humans?  Of course.  We always are.  Pick any character in history and find a character that never made a mistake.  Even Jesus questioned whether he could get out of the path he was on.  Luke 22:42 42“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will,but Yours be done.” 

We are all, even the best of us-complicated mixtures.

How did we decide that we couldn't be both? When growing up, did you want to be the princess or the evil queen?  I wanted to be a lawyer.  Or an ecologist.  The best darn tooting ecologist that ever walked the face of the earth.  Creating perfectly balanced ecosystems that fed everyone and kept families together-one compost pile at a time.  I am totally serious about this dream vocation.  Why that was my goal can only be explained by a mix of many things: my rural existence, my love for PBS (i.e.-lack of cable), my totally idealistic heart who wanted to save the world.

Some things about that dream still live on in my life.

But others are being put to rest.  How on earth did I come to this dichotomous belief system that still drives me if I take my eye off the wheel?  Where did it start?

I'm not 100% sure but as I run into these little arrows that keep trying to lead me to a distinct, irrevocably segregated answer, I end up uncovering clues.

For now, I'm actively working on recognizing that I am all the answers.
All at once
Good AND Bad 
Kind AND Mean  
Hero AND Villain

These aren't exclusionary events and if I'm heading down a path, I don't have to continue to the end before I can go back to start.

1 comment:

Enlightened Soul said...

I am proud to walk this path by your side, and thankful to have someone such as you to share this journey. Our meeting was not by accident, for everything in this world, good and bad, is intended to help us grow and evolve. LOVE YOU!