Friday, April 5, 2019

The Color of Our Thinking

Early in life we are taught black and white rules by our parents. Black and white rules normally include words like “always” or “never.”  Later, as we grew older,  our parents began to modify this “coloring of our thinking”  by changing the rule ever so slightly, causing us to respond,  “But you said?”

Smart/Stupid.  Good/Evil.  Right/Wrong.  Republican/Democrat.  Always/Never.  Love/Hate.  Us/Them.  These perceived opposites are examples of black-and-white thinking.  There are no shades of gray in this kind of thinking.  Psychologists call it “primitive thinking.”  When adults see the world in black and white terms they are slipping back into the way they saw the world as a child.  Roy Rogers always wore a white hat in every episode and the white hat stayed on his head even when in the midst of falling off his horse or wrestling with his adversary.  The adversary, “bad guy,” always wore a black hat—a hat that often fell off his head in the midst of a struggle.  

When our thinking is colored by black and white we are overwhelmed with the desire to find “the” answer.  There has got to be a “right” answer, the “good” answer, the “us” answer, the Republican or Democrat answer, the “perfect” answer.  Such thinking is flawed from the beginning because it assumes a static world. Not all perceived good is good.  Not all Republicans are the same, nor are all Democrats.  While black and white thinking may provide a momentary comfort, it is simply unrealistic to sustain. There are shades of grey in everything and everyone!

Black and white thinking simplifies everything. It desires an absolute “right” answer to every “Why” question.  We don’t really have to comprehend the issue at hand.  We know what the “right” is, and it allows us to feel “intelligent without ever understanding, and once we are intelligent, we feel superior.” People who do not think as we think become our enemies—the people who wear the black hats.

We live in a complex world that is colored by many and varied colors—even black and white photos have multiple shades of grey.  Black is always wrong, or negative, or bad, or evil.  White is always right, positive, or good.  But grey represents all the “colors,” all the possibilities, all the complexities, between these two extremes.  The possibilities are many.

Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona

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