Embrace the continuum

I have found that life is rarely “black and white” and most things have at least some “shades of gray”. Though our brain typically likes to organize things into neat little categories such as “black or white” or “good or bad” since this easy heuristic helps us process 400 billions of pieces of information per second. We may notice that when we ponder situations that we are more familiar with, we are able to understand that these situations are best expressed in the forms of a continuum.

When I was a teenager, I was introduced to the “yin-yang” symbol. I felt that this symbol is an excellent representation of the balance of life. Some things are more “light” than “dark” and other things are more “dark” than “light”. For example, people are rarely “all bad” or “all good”. When considering the political spectrum, there are people that are “all the way to the right”, there are people “in the center” and people “all the way to the left”.

As I write my blog of “influence versus control”, I fully acknowledge that the line between influence and control can be expressed as a continuum as well. When we consider health, we have control of all the habits that lead to good health including getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well. However, we cannot control if we get sick or not. When considering wealth, we can control how much we spend. If we earn a paycheck, we can control how much comes in each month. If we earn a commission, we have greater influence on how much money we could earn in a month, but we cannot control weather other will buy our product. We also do not have control of unforeseen expenses such as flying across country to visit a sick family member.

All in all, it is wise to consider the shades of gray. When considering an action, it is helpful to write a list of the pros and cons and see if this action has a greater chance of benefit than detriment. Life is too colorful to be seen as just “black and white”.



6 Comments to “Embrace the continuum”

  1. This type of thinking should be the norm, and to a degree it is. I would believe that most of the population fell somewhere in the middle, but they are probably the quietest majority.

    Why do people with widely opposing views seem to be the loudest? Probably has to do with the fact that it is easiest to defend a staunch position as opposed to one that is more agnostic.

    We also notice the bottom of the valley and the top of the mountain more that what is in between, even though what is in between is much bigger and often more diverse. We want our drinks hot or cold, not room temp. We notice the tall person or the short person.

    Extremes are easy for our minds to deal with whereas the middle often takes much more thought and it may be that the general populous just is too lazy or overwhelmed to deal with the diversity of all the shades of grey….

    Great article. I love the Yin Yang (Taeguk) symbol and also the Korean flag has the Taeguk and 4 trigrams called Kwe in Korean, These Represent from left to right Heaven, Water, Fire and Earth, but you can tell that the trigrams just by their very nature suggest all possibilities.

    In these tough times we need to embrace the grey as the black and white, set us up for divisiveness that will not help us grow, learn, fix, repair or heal our problems.

  2. Lots of shades of grey. Black or white is all or nothing. Grey levels the playing field. Stories can be told in a linear manner and in a non-linear manner. The ones that are usually more interesting are the ones in a non-linear manner.

    Sue Bock

  3. My mother told me years ago, life is mostly grey, but it is those black and white moments that offer the highlights that make it worth living. Mom was not only an artist, but very poetic in her expression. I understand exactly what you mean.

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