Be honest. Do you look at the world as black or white?
Liberal or Conservative? Left or Right? Progressive or Traditionalist? Global-citizen or Chauvinistic-nationalist? Internationalist or Jingoist? Secular or Fundamentalist? Rational or Superstitious? Believer or Infidel? Reason-able or Blindly-faithful? Idealist or Practical? Abstract or Realistic? Spiritualist or Materialist? Mystical or Down-to-earth? Pro-development or Pro-environment? Pro-market or Communist? Individualistic or Socially-chained? Free or Oppressed? East or West? Right or Wrong? This or That? The list is endless….almost.
We, yes, we all — the educated ones, the well-read ones, the intellectual ones — are all victims of such dichotomous lines of thinking. Not because we have been put into one or the other categories, but because we ourselves end up doing the same thing to others we meet and interact with. We like to put people in boxes so we can feel a sense of understanding. We like to read ‘into’ what people say or write, we even read ‘into’ their silences by hearing and reading those unspoken and unwritten words. Categories make life simple. Categorizing people makes it simpler.
In our intellectually egoistic moments we pretend that we have actually transcended these narrow black and white dichotomies and that we don’t put people into one or the other category. We like to think that we actually see and appreciate the various grays of the world. We like to tell ourselves (and whoever else will listen) that we don’t judge the intention of someone just because the person says or writes something that is ideologically or politically completely opposite to our preferred ideology or politics.
But that is not generally the truth of ourselves. And the true truth is that we know it. Deep down we know it. We know that we haven’t really stopped judging or categorizing people. We know that we still divide the world into black or white. We know that despite all the complex intellectual postmodernism we have consumed we are inwardly still highly fond of simplistic modernistic binaries that are perhaps demonstrative of a deeper truth of the nature of mind, the rough and unrefined instrument we are given to make sense of the world as it exists in its un-evolved existence.
The mind in its natural state can essentially “accept” only one side of the truth. In order to truly accept all the other possible sides of the truth as equally true, it needs a light from the regions above itself. It needs the assistance of faculties higher than mind. But our un-refined mind refuses to even accept that such light, such faculties are even possible. How could it accept that? It only sees itself as right and others as wrong. This or that, remember?
We, yes, we all are prisoners of our mind, the willing or unwilling victims of this tendency of mind to categorize and create opposite categories. Perhaps this tendency of mind is itself demonstrative of a deeper truth of the nature of Nature herself. Perhaps it has something to do with the nature of Manifestation itself. Perhaps it has something to do with the nature of the relative plane of existence on which the Absolute Existence chose to manifest and express itself. Perhaps….
Or perhaps we still haven’t figured out a way to transcend the limitations of our mind, the limitations of our nature, the limitations of our relative existence.
Or perhaps we have started to enjoy this mental world of contraries and have gained a certain mastery in how to ‘use’ such oppositional categories for our relative gain. Which, by default, would lead to a loss for the other.
Or perhaps, we have yet to realize that hidden deep behind these outer mentally-constructed binaries of ‘this or that’ rest much deeper contraries of our un-evolved nature. We are wise and stupid. But outwardly we choose to see ourselves as wise and others as stupid who simply don’t get how wise we are. We are strong and weak, but outwardly we choose to see ourselves as strong and others as weak who need our assistance to save them. We are righteous and sinful, but of course for the outsiders we are always on the right side and those others are full of sin and vices. We are free and imprisoned, but certainly we are the free ones charged to liberate the others who are still in chains (of their minds or the ones created by society). We are this but others are that. We or others.
When will we realize that we are indeed creatures of contraries? Ruled by our attachment to our dividing, categorizing minds?
When will we realize that we are limited and imperfect, we cannot stand for too long the deeper call to transcend our limitations and imperfections? That we are too used to our littleness, to our smallness and are reluctant to change, to expansion, to evolution?
When will we realize that it is because of this divided nature within that our higher aspiration (momentary as it maybe) of an inner self-exceeding is rejected, the very next moment, by our limited, narrow mind?
Man, the Despot of Contraries
I am greater than the greatness of the seas,
A swift tornado of God-energy;
A helpless flower that quivers in the breeze
I am weaker than the reed one breaks with ease.
I harbour all the wisdom of the wise
In my nature of stupendous Ignorance;
On a flame of righteousness I fix my eyes
While I wallow in sweet sin and join hell’s dance.
My mind is brilliant like a full-orbed moon,
Its darkness is the caverned troglodyte’s.
I gather long Time’s wealth and squander soon;
I am an epitome of opposites.
I with repeated life death’s sleep surprise;
I am a transience of the eternities.
~ Sri Aurobindo, Collected Poems