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Posts Tagged ‘black and white thinking’

From Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

Moderate: 1 a : avoiding extremes of behavior or expression : observing reasonable limits <a moderate drinker>
b : calm, temperate
2 a : tending toward the mean or average amount or dimension
b : having average or less than average quality : mediocre
3 : professing or characterized by political or social beliefs that are not extreme
4 : limited in scope or effect

From Our Own Druidry (83)

Cultivating one’s appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health (mental or physical), through excess or deficiency

Again here I’ve used the definition of “moderate” because “moderation” was self defining (“The state of being moderate”), and I found I got more traction and useful definition from the root word.

For me, moderation is the antithesis of “black and white” thinking. In a logic class I took once, we were instructed always to look for a third option, and then a fourth and fifth, when presented with an all or nothing proposition. This helps prevent logical fallacies, but it also helps prevent destructive behavior through obsession (either with excess or deficiency). Looking for the third option doesn’t necessarily mean a middle road (though often that is the case), but can simply mean avoiding the obstacle altogether, or finding a creative and unusual solution to a problem. I’ve explored this a little further in my post Adventures in Polytheism, for those curious.

It is a means of self-care and self-respect as well, to know one’s limits (both physical and mental), and to know how to use those limits but still function with respect to others. Much like hospitality, moderation will frequently run in with other people. The warrior virtues of integrity, courage, and perseverance will come in handy when cultivating moderation (to help you know and stick to your limits and your own sense of balance), and moderation can temper and balance those same warrior virtues (to keep you from running too far with any one idea). For me personally, moderation is the virtue that helps me know when I’ve pushed too far beyond what I can handle mentally, and to know when to balance self care with my desire to please others.

I find this an interesting choice to be included in the nine “primary” virtues of Druidry. While I certainly agree that it is a virtuous thing to cultivate moderation, I think it speaks to the nature of ADF as a group to seek a middle way – to accept both solitary and group work, to cultivate the intellectual mind and the intuitive mind, to be modern Neopagans but to take our cues from ancient cultures. Moderation is about balance, and it is, I think, included in the list in order to balance out some of the more polarizing of the virtues.

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I’ve had a fairly thoughtful week.

For me, adjusting my brain to “think like a polytheist” has been quite the adventure. For someone born into an Indo-European culture, this kind of stuff would be second nature – much like the Protestant Work Ethic is second nature to most Americans (the idea that if you work hard, God will reward you, therefore success means you have pleased God and failure means you’re a lazy good-for-nothing and God is displeased with you/you don’t deserve success). This belief influences all kinds of things, from how we teach our children to how we relate to the poor, but there are two parts that specifically stuck out at me.

First, this kind of thinking is essentially binary – a trait common in Western monotheism. There’s “God’s way” (the specifics of which are hard to pin down) and the Wrong Way. If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy. If you’re successful, it’s Gods blessing, if you’re not, it’s a personal failing on your part. Very black and white. (It also fails to reward people for doing good, by giving all the credit for their goodness/skill to God, but that’s a different post).

Back when I was in college, my rhetoric professor was always challenging us to “spot the third option”. This was an especially fun game when reading the newspaper or any political speech, which relies on creating binaries to sustain the “I’m the good guy, the other guy is the bad guy” image. If you can spot a third option, you can usually spot a fourth and fifth, and the discussions that resulted from that exercise were always way more nuanced and thoughtful and productive than just everyone “taking sides”.

Polytheism is, at its heart, pluralistic to monotheism’s inherent duality. Corrigan (article here) derives this from Nature, where all things are varied, and which – if we use Nature as our expression/model for the Divine, suggests a plurality of divinity as well. There are certainly categories of things, but each thing is both totally individual and yet part of a greater ecosystem.

This all got me to thinking about a lot of things, from the nature of Gods to the problem of “evil” (which I think will have to be its own post).

Overall, though, it’s been an interesting process to realize just how accustomed to dualistic thinking I’ve become, even though I know it’s often fallacious. It’s a big tie in to the virtues, which seem fairly straightforward but are, in practice, highly nuanced as well. (Especially when you consider that each one can be applied differently in different cultures, making it all quite relative.) It’s certainly easier to think in terms of black and white, but I’m finding my model of the world is more sensible the more options it has. It’s also a lot more compassionate (though that may just be my reading of things), which is something I strive for.

The more I look for black and white thinking, the more of it I see as well, which can be a little frustrating if I don’t want to get into rhetorical arguments all the time.

The “problem of evil” is even a bigger issue for me, and reading that article made a lot of things clear up that had bothered me for awhile. It’s rather intensely personal stuff, so I’m not sure how to blog about it, but I’ll see if I can’t figure out a way to approach it in the next few days.

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