Pandemic, demonstrations, and recession. Sounds like one hot mess.
Or is it?
Well… what about this confluence of events is NOT disruptive, devastating, and uncomfortable? All that is bad, right?
Disruption, devastation, and discomfort can actually lead to positive changes and insights. Tornadoes and hurricanes, while perhaps destructive to our property, is nature’s way of removing dead and dying plants and animals and creating an emulsion for regeneration and new life. Without death and destruction, life and renewal are not possible.
Although I’m saying death and devastation are not all bad, I’m not saying that they are all good either. I’m saying these realities are complex. Good and bad co-exist in a way that’s necessary and completely natural. Devastation and disruption are the yin to the yang of stability, flourishing, and comfort; one is not possible without the other. Yet our minds seem to need to cast a snap judgement on them and categorize them. These split-second decisions are rarely re-evaluated or critically examined, even while evidence suggest otherwise.
This tendency is human nature. We rapidly simplify complexity so that we can navigate the ever-changing labyrinth and increasingly challenging nature of our modern world. But that simplification means shortcuts, and therefore mistakes, also known as cognitive errors. When we make enough cognitive errors, our assumptions just feel like they’re not working for us anymore.
And here we are. Pandemic, demonstrations, recession.
All of the beliefs that got us to a place of comfort and ease (for many of us, anyway) seem to be under assault. Our world is changing, or maybe the world’s true nature is just being revealed to us. Either way, our circumstances are demanding that we pay attention to them.
Do we need to spend more time being deliberative about what is right or wrong, good or bad?
Maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe we shouldn’t be deciding at all.
Maybe the fact that we need to judge and decide is the problem.
In other words, what if we just quit passing judgement? Period.
Why? Why do you say that Susanna?
Because we’re terrible at it. Because passing snap judgement evokes a naïve simplicity that’s charming for 5 year olds but dysfunctional for adults trying to navigate modern society.
Let’s take a simple example. Is light good and darkness bad?
If we didn’t have darkness, is light even possible? Even if we do have darkness, what about faint light? Is a glimmer of light a little good? Is darkness ever helpful, too? Do we ever have complete darkness? Where do you draw the line?
You can go through the same thought exercise for good/evil, good/bad, right/wrong. These concepts are even more subjective than light/dark, since we can actually use instruments to measure light. We can’t objectively measure good or bad or anything in between.
We make these snap judgements about things we cannot completely measure, define, categorize, and therefore understand. We use these judgements to make decisions that literally have life/death consequences for other people and things, and we act as if they are the absolute truth. We fashion ourselves into God-like creatures, passing judgement on everyone and everything (flora, fauna, mineral) around us— you shall live, you shall suffer, you shall be destroyed, you shall prosper. Of course, I should always be the one to prosper because I’m virtuous and you’re not.
When did God delegate this judgement role to me? Or you? Or anyone else?
Did our Founding Fathers want us to decide which humans were better and more deserving than others?
There’s an arrogance about these judgements that I find hard to swallow, and it’s literally making me nauseous right now. I can’t help but feel this is related to the suffering that we’re all experiencing right now.
One of my favorite books is How Good Do We Have to Be? by Harold Kushner. Kushner talks about perfectionism and states that when we think we can be perfect/omniscient, we’re equating ourselves with God, because only God is perfect/omniscient. Who are we to put ourselves on that level, where we feel we can pass judgement about everyone and everything?
When I pass judgement on someone or something, I’m telling them that they’re worse than me and less deserving, when I have no actual basis for that conclusion except for my flawed, snap judgement. That judgement allows me to aggress against that human or non-human because I’ve justified in my mind that that’s what they deserve. I’m Godlike. I KNOW things. You don’t.
Of course they’re going to fight back against aggression. To expect otherwise is insanity. We’re seeing it now.
Our judgement about better/worse people and things is causing harm, and the consequences of our denial about this is being revealed to us through our current circumstances.
The good news is, I believe this discomfort, destruction, and disruption reflects that we’re finally starting to find our way. It’s the feeling you have when you realized you missed your exit 45 miles back and you’re exhausted, hungry, and you’re not sure you have enough money to make up the lost gas. It’s a painful realization, but arguing about who’s to blame just prevents us from getting to the dinner and bed we are longing for.
We’ve gone waaayyy past our exit and it’s time to right our course with Earth and our fellow humans. In our arrogance, we’ve judged human and non-humans of Earth to be less deserving, when in fact, God created all of us for our equally important respective purpose.
We’re better than rocks. Well, rocks can live without us, but we can’t live without them.
Other people and things are neither/both good and bad. Neither/both are we. We’re all here as part of the fabric of creation in its rich diversity. All should be celebrated, not judged to be less than, or even better than. We just are.
This is especially true for the people and things that we don’t understand and make us uncomfortable or scared. They’re the yang to our yin, and we’re not possible without them.