I’ve been working hard to be okay with everything I don’t understand. It seems that every time I think that I have something understood, that some previously unconsidered variable presents itself that blurs the boundaries of the black and white and turns everything grey.
A line from Erwin Goodenough, a historian of religion who taught at Yale University for four decades until his retirement in 1962, and died just three years later, on why complexity is central to everything important in the world:
A book on love, loyalty or justice would gain little but pedantry by starting out with a concise definition of the term. Only as we describe the various conflicting elements associated with such words can we finally arrive at a meaning that includes these complexities; for important matters we understand, not as we simplify, but as we tolerate the paradoxical.
And another from Richard Ford, from his great novel Canada, a passage about chess as a preparation for life:
My mother encouraged my playing. She told me her father used to play in a park in Tacoma against other immigrants, sometimes competing in several games at once. She thought chess would sharpen my wits and make me more at ease with how complex the world was, and make confusion not a thing to fear – since it was everywhere.
Things are not black and white. Things are never black and white.
The more something is presented as black and white—or any of its polarising variations: us and them, this or that, north and south—the more unreal it becomes.
The world is a patchwork quilt of greys.
I will try harder to embrace that inexplicable complexity, to face the world and its randomness head-on, and to look at confusion as not a thing to fear, since it is everywhere.
And while doing those things, I will also try harder to breathe, and be present, and be grateful for everything I hold dear, including you, reader, you who are reading these words, wherever in the world you are. Thank you.