Some people view the world in either/or terms. To them everything is either one way or another way: true or false, individual or collective, young or old, rich or poor, capitalist or socialist, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic, red or blue, sacred or secular, believer or nonbeliever, Christian or Moslem (or Jew), sinner or saint, evolved or intelligently designed, career-oriented or family-oriented, urban or rural, foreign or domestic, with us or against us, my team or your team, your tribe or my tribe, Mac or PC, Coke or Pepsi…the list goes on and on.
These people see the world as either Black or White.
Others take a more nuanced view of things. They argue that things are hardly ever as clearly demarcated as the Black & White Crowd claim. China and North Korea may both be communist countries, for example. But China seems much more hospitable and in tune with capitalism – to the extent that it can at times appear to have more in common with the capitalist United States than with communist North Korea.
Sometimes these folks will point to a larger whole containing both sides. As Barack Obama said in his 2004 Democratic Convention speech: “…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.”
These people will say they recognize that, rather than being black and white, the world is made up of Shades of Gray.
Shades of gray certainly give us a better picture of how things are. It’s much easier to see details and recognize items in this picture. But the picture is still incomplete. It rests on a mental abstraction of the world, filtering things through the mind into this shade and that.
We are accustomed to using our brains in every dealing we have in the world. In refining our thinking we can get beyond the limits of a black and white world and perceive its many different shades of gray. But that only takes us so far in perceiving and understanding our world.
Perhaps we need to step back once in a while, stop dissecting and analyzing everything, and just let the world speak to us while we listen. Maybe the world can then tell us something more about itself.