• Rock, Papers, Smith: Feeling Forced to Choose and Why I Challenge You Not to

    Dichotomy vs. Dialectics

    Before I even dive into the pop culture craze of the week, I want to speak on the terms Dichotomy and Dialectics a bit. I don’t make it a habit to walk around using words like dichotomy and dialectic, because, well, who talks like that? If you know me in real life, you might hear me talk about black and white thinking vs. living in the gray a lot more commonly. If you’re like me just a couple years back, I’ll give a crash course real quick…Dichotomy = black and white thinking and Dialectics = living in the gray.

    So what does that even mean? 

    I have folks often ask me what does black and white thinking mean, so I’ll break it down further. Black and white thinking is super rigid thinking. Thinking in absolutes. Taking sides. Thinking in opposites. Right versus wrong. All-or-nothing. This is a great foundational skill to have, and truthfully, we can’t get by in a society without the ability to discern between these things. However, it’s when we can’t surpass dichotomous thinking that we get stuck as a human being. 

    So that leads us to striving toward dialectical thinking, or living in that gray area. We want to be able to look at a situation from multiple angles. In relationships, we want to see problems from our perspective, but also our loved one’s persepective, and maybe a third perspective as well. I love using the example that someone once used with me: Two people can be looking at a coffee cup from different angles. One can see no handle and argue that it’s a handle-less cup, while the other is looking at the handle and argues that it very much has a handle. A third person can be looking from above and see a totally different angle, and view of the mug. Dialectical thinking takes a whole lot of empathy, flexibilty, and even some imagination, and the ability to live and let live. 

    Without getting too political here, I am of the opinion that our culture and society doesn’t put a heavy enough emphasis on developing the ability to think dialectically. I think our abilities have been even more weakened in the recent years with more and more social media involvement, and more involvement in heated debates that pressure us to choose a side- often a very, very dichotomous side. 

    See Where I’m Going Here?

    Let the Will Smith/Chris Rock debate be a reminder in our day to day that we are constantly being pressured to step into a two dimentional, black and white world, when in reality, two conflicting truths can exist at once. How many times have you heard in the past 48 hours, “which one do you think was right?” Huh? Two people can be right at the same time. Two people can be wrong at the same time. The world is not made up of black and whites. We live in shades of gray. 

    And if you’ve found yourself guilty of asking a black and white question, or choosing a black and white side, I hope you find peace in knowing that I did, too. I must admit, between my fond memories of waiting for the school bus and watching Fresh Prince, and the warm and fuzziness that comes over my heart every time I pop on a Will Smith movie, I was certainly leaning toward a side out of loyalty. But as I walked back from one my kiddo’s bus stops on this cold March morning I reflected on the matter, and I realized that for my teens who I was discussing this with last night, I’m coloring the world black and white when I want to be shading it in gray. 

    Regardless of how I view it, or how I paint it though, the truth remains in tact, that we actually live in a world with no absolute truth. Chris could have meant absolutely no harm, and could have caused it anyhow. Will could have had a right to defend his wife, and could have done so in other ways.

    Two men had an encounter at the 94th Oscar Award Show. 15.36 million people watched their encounter, live. Countless people have replayed it over and over since, making speculations. Of the number of times that encounter was seen and speculated about, how many of those times do you think it was watched by someone looking for the gray versus for the black and white? I applaud you if you were one of the few. 

    I have seen both men post formal apologies to one another, to their families, and to the world for their actions. Both men, who in the moment felt they were in the right. Both men, who after the fact were scrutinized by many. Both men who were portrayed as good and as bad, depending on the speculator.  In my opinion, the world is a more beautiful place when you look for the playful lines and the in depth shading; when you live in the gray. Individually, we pick things apart and tend to view situations such as these from one perspective. As a collective, we are able to see many angles. As a group, we are able to dissect and pull apart anything. As a culture, we allow this ability to collectively think in dialectic terms to tear us apart. Yet we don’t see that together, we hold the key to our futures. We don’t see that united we stand in the gray, divided we fall in the black and white. 

    When Will we Stop Arguing, and Start Listening?

    We Can Live in the Gray Together.