Transcending Polarization and Duality
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds,
and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.
But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
For thousands of years this world has been focused on duality and polarization. People have long had a tendency to judge most everything in terms of light vs. darkness, good vs. evil, us vs. them. We've in many ways been indoctrinated to embrace the light as good, while avoiding and separating ourselves from darkness, as we were taught that it is evil.
When engaged in war, other situations of conflict, and even political elections, we tend to see us as good and them as bad or evil, often without even understanding the deeper reasons behind the differences. As a result of these deeply ingrained dualities, we've ended up in numerous conflicts and wars in the world, and even inside of ourselves.
The reality is that all of us, including those on both sides of any polarity or conflict, have inspiring creative abilities, whether latent or expressed. Yet it's also important to acknowledge that we all have the capability for destruction. There are ample examples of average people being involved in horrifying, destructive acts throughout history.
One blatant example was the response by the people of Germany to official Nazi propaganda that Jews were evil during World War II. Only a very few individuals there were willing to speak against the atrocities committed not only against the Jews, but against homosexuals, gypsies, those with physical deformities, and more.
There are certainly inspiring examples of heroes who saved hundreds and even thousands of Jews, but the vast majority of German citizens kept quiet. A powerful poem by German pastor Martin Niemoeller on his choice not to act during World War II exemplifies how people succumbed to polarization propaganda.
In Germany they came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
This powerful message applies not only to the time of the Nazis. During the conscious campaign to exterminate Native Americans in the early days of the United States, many good Americans simply turned their heads and took no action to stop this destruction. During many other genocidal movements that have taken place around the world and continue to this day, good people have simply avoided talking and even thinking about the issue, thus allowing the massive violence and murders to continue unabated, or to escalate further.
Two major experiments demonstrate how polarities and unwillingness to question authority exist in all of us. The first, the Milgram Experiment, showed that the vast majority of ordinary citizens will inflict pain – sometimes even severe pain – on another person simply because they are ordered to do so by an authority figure.
The second, the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, arbitrarily divided normal middle-class young men into the polarized roles of prison guards and prisoners. The results of this disturbing experiment revealed that the young men put into the role of prison guards within days can become aggressive and even violent towards those assigned to play the role of prisoners. Please watch the below documentaries on both of these revealing experiments.
Milgram Experiment (ABC News - 6 min)
Stanford Prison Experiment (BBC - 30 min)
These experiments show clearly that we all have destructive capabilities within us. As stated in Solzhenitsyn's quote at the top of this page, "The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." When we don't live with clear intentions, it is easy to be pulled down a destructive path by circumstances, by pressure from authorities, or even by government propaganda.
By developing clear purpose and intentions and committing to live these to the best of our ability, we can move beyond external pressures and disempowering old behaviors to develop healthier, more enjoyable ways of living with each other. By taking action when those in authority are clearly leading us into unnecessary wars or otherwise polarizing us, we can play a key role in creating a new paradigm beyond duality which is actually a lot more fun and meaningful than the old ways.
Humanity is now on the brink of an important paradigm shift. Our world is now shifting with increasing speed from old dualistic ways of thinking to a new paradigm which accepts both light and darkness, both creation and destruction, both us and them as a natural part of life.
It is time to recognize that dualities and polarizations can be valuable aspects of living in a world with human values. Sometimes it's necessary to destroy outdated things and change old ways in order to make way for the new. Seeds need to be buried in the darkness of fertile soil in order to sprout and grow. Let us open to darkness, destruction, and "them" as valued and respected aspects of life which can help us to learn and grow as we work together to find our common humanity.
For a poetic example of this, please read the thought-provoking page of the ancient classic Way of the Wise (Tao Te Ching) at the link below:
This is not in the least to suggest that by opening to the darkness we unleash our base desires and do whatever we want to whoever we want. We need to stop behavior that is destructive or disempowering towards people whenever possible. The suggestion, rather, is that even as we stop the destructive behaviors, we do our best to accept and learn from the darkness which can cause such behaviors, so that we can better be the change we want to see.
In other words, even as we stop destructive behaviors, we can open to seeing beyond the behavior to the deeper common humanity we all share. In doing this, we allow for deep healing and transformation to occur. By accepting and embracing the core essence of all people and all parts of ourselves, we open the doors to deep healing and love for all of us.
The new paradigm pierces the veil of judgment to see the beauty that lies deep within each of us. No matter how "evil" some people, some groups (like the power elite), or even some parts of ourselves may appear from the outside, deep down we are simply humans who at the deepest levels want to do what's right, and want to love and be loved.
Although it may appear at times to be horrible, ugly, or scary, darkness can be a powerful teacher with its own purpose. We are all here to learn from and find ways to connect more meaningfully with each other. By welcoming back these lost parts of ourselves – these parts of ourselves we have long judged, blamed, and avoided – we not only allow for deep healing, we promote a deep transformation and a shift to a new paradigm which recognizes all people as valued and worthy beings capable of powerfully spreading love and joy around the planet.
The below ancient Chinese tale speaks to the power of accepting whatever happens, without the need for duality of judgment.
A Chinese Parable on the Wisdom of Acceptance
Once upon a time, there lived a man on the northern frontier of China who understood the wisdom of acceptance. One day for no reason, this man's only horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him. But he said, 'How do you know this isn't a blessing?'
Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him. But he said, 'How do you know this isn't a disaster?'
Their household was richer by a fine horse, which the man's son loved to ride. One day the man's son fell from the horse and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him. But he said, 'How do you know this isn't a blessing?'
A year later nomads came in force across the border. Every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.
Let us join in birthing a new paradigm by doing our best to accept whatever happens, even though we may not know the reason or purpose. Let us look for the learning in every situation and live life as consciously as we can every day and every moment of our lives.
Let us join in accepting, yet at the same time transcending the old paradigm of duality and polarization. Let us co-create a new paradigm of deep healing, love, and empowerment for all creatures on this planet and in the universe. Together, we are the change that is transforming our world!
The only place that any of us ever exists is at the center of our own consciousness. Yet we can continually expand that center outward to include all around us.
Note: The above essay is an edited version of the first part of the inspiring lesson "Beyond Duality" from the free Insight Course available here. For part two, which explores the holographic nature of our universe, click here. And for two empowering two-page essays with more practical ideas on this topic, see Simple Keys to a Fuller Life at this link and Building a Brighter Future at this link.
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