Why am I “embracing grey”?

May 30, 2011

Contrary to what you may think, and a Google image search would indicate, “embracing grey” for me has nothing to do with accepting growing old. I’m not quite old yet, actually am not yet greying and, much to my dismay, I am not finding it easy to accept aging anyway.

The name Embracing Grey started with something I have said for a long time. When it comes to politics, the flat line right/ left model is overly simplistic.  The issues, and the people, are more complicated than that. It started when I realized how many social liberals were financial conservatives. People on the right were often at odds with the leaders of the parties they support on what would seem to be key issues. And moderates often had some views that were strongly “left or right”. You could look beyond the “conservative/liberal” labels and see that even when you attach labels like libertarian don’t really describe the people who adopt it because there is no unanimity of opinion as to what it really means. Obviously the idea of labeling people like that just didn’t fit.

But this isn’t all about politics. In life we often think of so many things as black and white. Either you are for something or against it. Either you do it or you don’t. Either you are or you aren’t. There’s an old joke that the odds are always 50/50 because either it will or won’t happen. That joke shows though just how things are more complicated than that. Probability is often not 50/50. And things that are “locks” still tend to have a chance, no matter how remote, of not happening. There is a complexity that we tend to avoid, but which I want to embrace.

I think people often prefer to think in black and white because it’s easier. When you are thinking in black or white you rarely have to think through the issue. People are more comfortable with the idea that what they say, do or believe is right or wrong in a black and white world. It’s easier to justify what you do if you can convince yourself that the other option would be an absolute wrong. And it seems as if the more complicated an issue the more likely people are to simplify it.

I started thinking of this several years ago and have been working to accept it in myself. I was going through counseling and reading a lot to try to get my shit together. One of the tendencies I saw in myself was to see everything as black and white. Frankly it was because I wasn’t as mentally healthy as I could have been. Despite a tendency to be overly cerebral I was simplifying things to make it easier to deal with the inner turmoil. I had a lot of issues to work through so simplifying other things made life simpler. But this became a habit that was hard to break. Even several years later I have to force myself at times to see the grey in everything.

Now this is becoming a bit of a cause for me. I am looking at what is going on in the world and it bothers me that I think this tendency is used to manipulate and control. It bothers me to see people blindly follow because they are conditioned to think in overly simplistic ways. I am concerned that there are so many people you cannot have a frank discussion with because to do so would force them to actually think about what they believe. And it upsets me to see  rage coming from people whenever their stance on an issue is questioned.

I sometimes see people get angry when someone has a different opinion and realize that what I am seeing is not as much rage as fear. They know there is a possibility they are wrong. Deep down they sense that there is more to the issue than they want to accept. They hate how uncomfortable it makes them to be forced to think through an issue rather than to state their opinion as fact.  And this is not just about politics. Every aspect of their life is given the same treatment. If you like different music, films or television programs you see the same reaction you’d expect if you were to challenge their religion.

So as I embrace this flaw in myself, and observe it in the world around me, this is becoming the basis of my own personal belief system. I believe that, in general, you can usually predict how people will react based on a black and white model because 1) that is how others likely see the issue and 2) a large number of events do have, in a broad sense, only 2 outcomes. But at the same time I want to look at issues and causes in more complex ways. This puts me at odds with a lot of people, and I am recognizing it puts me at odds with the established order of things, but I’m OK with that.

So as you read this blog realize that this idea impacts what I am thinking and feeling, and sometimes fighting my own habit of over-simplifying things. And sharing instances where I see this happening may make up a great deal of the blog, although I have no doubts that there will be other things on my mind much of the time.

This blog isn’t about “embracing grey”, that just describes where I am in my life. The blog isn’t “about” anything other than what I feel like writing about.

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