I’ve finally landed on the specific theme and pattern that will shape much of my blogging from now own, and to kick it off I’ve already posted the first entry into a series I’m titling “Nothing in Between.”
The idea behind the Nothing In Between series is fairly simple: there are many, many aspects of life which are richly complex – in both rewarding and frustrating ways – that our culture tends to boil down into absolute binaries, all-or-nothing black and white opposites. The most obvious cases, the ones that get the most attention, are found in politics. People wear their party affiliations and positions like badges of honor, often becoming ardent party-line voters or single issue adherents, failing (or worse, refusing) to reckon with the complexity of issues or to pursue partnership with people who are starting from a different perspective.
For a long time I have thought of myself as a political moderate, but my goal in this series will not be to advocate for compromise. A common perception of moderation in politics is that it asks for concessions from both sides so that no one gets what they want but no one gets too much power. My desire is more ambitious than that. My fear is that the pursuit of such kinds of compromise still unduly reinforces the binary, and even when agreement is reached, people involved still walk away feeling like “we” got the better of “them”.
Here is my basic thesis:
- Nearly every issue that gets boiled down to a binary is more complicated, and treating it as a binary does violence to our ability to mediate the issue
- Properly understanding any given issue will always take more effort and reflection than people are used to, so it will be hard
- Hard things are good; we’ve become far too infatuated with simplicity for our own good (although, to reinforce the complexity of all issues, this is not a blanket indictment of simplicity or comfort)
- When we step outside the binary, we won’t just find ways to “meet in the middle” — we’ll actually find third, fourth, and fifth ways to solve problems
- When we step outside the binary, we’ll realize that often the binary sets us up to talk past each other, ignoring the values that undergird our “opponents”‘ position
Over time, I’d like to write more in depth on each of these ideas, but hopefully they’re provocative even as bullet points.
At base, my purpose in this pursuit is rooted in truth: I am not arguing that things are complex for any reason other than that it is true, and it is my deeply held belief that pursuing what is actually true is always the optimal way to understand and engage with the world around us. My hope and prayer is that embracing this complexity will also bear fruit, that it will result in more love being given, less harm being done, and more beauty being created. I don’t think that’s a crazy hope, and I will continue to hold to it. The bravest thing of all is to hope.