I grew up in a black and white world, rigid, uncompromising, definitively either right or wrong.
Some of it has to do with being raised conservatively, as an Evangelical Christian, but a lot of it came out of my own personality. Until somewhat more recently in my life, I have always struggled with the abstract. The unseen, the intangible, the things that fall outside of the box I have neatly organized my world inside of. I dislike clutter, and thoughts and ideas that don’t fit into categories or have a nice, resolved, outcome can frustrate me to no end.
There are some who would decry this kind of upbringing as being a great shame; they think I must be repressed, naive, unable to see of the contours of the world. In a sense, I understand this, probably because I am not the same person as I was growing up. Its nice to think of little children being raised freely, able to experience anything and everything with no preconceived ideas that have been “force fed” to them.
After all, there is a beauty in the gray mist, the unanswered questions, the parts of life we cannot see, but must so deeply feel.
There is an argument to be made, however, for having that firm of a foundation as a child and young adult. In a world that is constantly screaming in our faces, changing, shifting, questioning the existence of any absolute, there is a beauty in having strong moorings in a safe harbor.
We are free to grow, to play, to be children, assured that we live in an ordered, reasoning, meaningful place.
That we ourselves have meaning and purpose. Not just the vague notion of “you can be anything you want to be”, but instead the powerful belief that I, Hannah Lee, have been created and placed on the earth for a real purpose and reason.
When we place children (too young to think abstractly) into the mainstream of the world, with no real underpinnings, foundations, values, how can we surprised when they best they manage is to float along with the current, doing, saying, and believing what everyone else around them is doing, saying, and believing? They have never been shown that if they would only put their feet down, there is ground to stand upon. And if they had been taught to slowly wade out, to play in the edges, developing their strength, skill, their thought processes and beliefs, they would one day be able to enter the mainstream with the ability to either go along, stand their ground, or swim upstream if they so chose.
Those who thrown in and make a habit for themselves of floating along will hardly gain the strength needed to change course downstream.
No matter how safe the harbor, no ship is made to be permanently barred from the high seas. And so I grew older, and hopefully a bit wiser with passing time, and I developed the ability to see past the deep black and stark white that I was so used to.
I found that there are a million shades of gray, and every one comes with its own implications and meanings for the way we lives our lives – the way we understand our lives. I also found that recognizing the gray – interacting with the gray – does not always have to mean living in the gray, or even condoning it. Acknowledging its existence and interacting with it, however, widens our shores, broadens our horizons. It can either increase the paths we are willing to travel, or serve as warning to us of ways we do not wish to travel.
The real danger is in refusing to acknowledge that it exists.
Some people have become so locked into one way of seeing, thinking, believing – one way of doing life – that they truly cannot see any shade other than pitch black and brilliant white. When the encounter anything other than those two things they must shut them out, shout them down, condemn them with ears blocked from hearing and eyes blinded from seeing.