Monday, April 12

‘Every quality, taken to extremes, becomes a weakness.’ Paulo Coelho

I’ve spent a good portion of the last week reading blogs, news and alternative news sources. It’s triggered a bit of introspection along the lines of Mr. Coelho’s quote above, and from that introspection I felt the need to try to clarify a couple thoughts.

The Easter post, part satire and part anti-religion rant, raised more ire than I usually manage to provoke (or at least that I’m aware of). Most of it arrived via my FB link or by private message/email than here in the comments, but I was ready for it. There’s no way I wrote that without an intention to provoke.

But I’m also not one that relishes contention most of the time. I have to feel pretty strongly about something to not look for a win/win solution that’s inclusive. I do recognize, however, that I, like everyone else, have the ability and propensity to become too enamored of an idea, an ideology, a quality in ourselves that we consider one of our strengths, a political position, a religious doctrine, a scientific or academic school of thought, etcetera, etcetera. It is not an affliction that is unique to any one demographic or another. Even those who cherish science, objectivity and reason above all (while pointing at emotion, empathy and metaphysics as foolish self-delusions) things can become entrenched in those concepts to a degree that excludes other valid possibilities. We are all susceptible to the dynamic.

I think we find it attractive because sometimes the journey gets tiring and we just want desperately to believe that we can find that one internal or external position that will allow us to stop exploring. That place where we can say, “I’m finally here”, and that, in that place, we’ll find some rest. But that concept is, I think, mostly an illusion - a mirage.

For sure, there will be, and should be, times when we rest for awhile, but the journey never really ends. We may find refuges and oases at times, and we probably need them when we get there, but the real challenge is knowing to move on after we’ve had that rest instead of trying to settle in as if we’d ‘arrived’.

That was one of my thoughts. The other involves the concept of synthesis as opposed to extremism.

In my first year of under-grad studies, while I was taking all of those ubiquitous survey courses, I was struck by the trend in each discipline for schools of thought to develop around specific approaches, discoveries or styles. Each new paradigm would be based on the ground gained by the one before it, and yet the new paradigm ended up being branded as contrary to the one prior, and a mutually-exclusive dynamic would rear its ugly head resulting in temporary stagnation. This process would continue, spawning school of though after school of thought, until some bright person would come along and try to form a synthesis of all the best aspects of these “disparate” schools of thought.

I always gravitated towards the synthesis concept more than any other one school because, well, it just made more sense. Concepts of amalgamation tend to be more open and dynamic. Constructed on the assumption that ideas that have come before have something to contribute, and that a combination of ideas can be more complete than any separate component can be, the synthesis perspective tends to be (in theory) perpetually inclusive in design, always looking for the next bit of discovery or revelation that will help fill in a bit more of the picture.

I hold pretty strong ideas regarding the nature of institutions whether they are religious, social, bureaucratic, educational or political. I doubt that this disclosure comes as a surprise if you’ve read anything here or know me. I liken any institution to trying to make one specific wave permanent…

That said I also realize that my position on institutions is hardly ultimate or inviolate. We need institutions like laws and courts and representational democracy in a pluralistic society with high population density. I recognize that multiple perspectives are required in a system so that debate can occur; that the progress of ideas occurs through the process of exploration, disagreement and discourse; that diversity is a good thing. I like those ideas. I just don’t like the manifestations of those ideas that we are currently working with and under. If we’re open enough, I think that we’ll be able to evolve past them, but we have to be open to the evolution and not fight it so much.

I wish, sometimes, that it was easier for us as a species to remember and practice that cooperative approach of synthesis. I wish we’d save “you’re wrong” for really special occasions and look for what’s right more often, even if we can only see a little piece in the larger whole. I wish we’d look for a middle path of symbiosis instead of investing so much energy in trying to steer left or right. I wish we’d include instead of exclude. I wish we didn’t need a “them” in order to simply be “us”.

And I hope that I’ll never forget that in front of my own mirror is the best place to renew this wish.

As a side note, I like the idea of this: