Ignore the absolutes, stay in the gray area

From the moment we are born, our lives are relentlessly and consistently tested by the elements. The list is enormous, beginning with internal factors that gradually determine which external ones will hinder our survival.

A biologist would say our ancestry affects our genetic makeup. The expression of genes inherited from our parents gives us a mixed bag of mutations that either strengthen or weaken us. Our bodies, inside and out, display random combinations of the physical and chemical strengths and weaknesses of our parents.

This lays the foundation, as a psychologist would say, for our mental development. The factors that determine our way of thinking gradually pervade our minds after we are born and build on things related to our bodies. Traits like height, weight and inherited disorders lay the framework for ideas about ourselves, others, the ways we treat others and the ways of the world. If we’re lucky enough to survive our birth, we earn the chance to endure the childhood that will gradually mold us into the adults we’ll grow up to be. Or not be.

Events of nature and mistakes of our own design will test, alter and shape us. And, often or not, many of us will be broken by these things.  As a result, we succumb to guilt or hedonistic pleasures to fill the void that was created. Often or not, many of us die, sometimes by our own hand, before we muster that final burst of courage that allows us to change our circumstances for the better.

Depression often affects those of us that are temporarily trapped in unfavorable situations. The key to survival is perseverance because there are valuable benefits to experiencing times of such weakness.

We learn together, through the constant interaction with others, what is right and wrong. We learn compassion for others experiencing emotional catastrophe because we can relate to them through empathy. We build character and integrity to shield us (and others) from future hypocrisies that could destroy us. And, through pain, we learn pleasure, like Virgil said in “The Aeneid.”

That’s because, when we experience great loss, those of us who refuse to give up will use our dignified defiance to transcend our circumstances. Ideally, that is the case.

There is always a way to change unfavorable situations. If we can’t go at it alone, we can do it with the help of others.

Queen told us “don’t try suicide” because the rest of the world doesn’t give a damn. Rush told us to “roll the bones” and take chances in life because nothing in this universe is guaranteed. Everything given must be received as a gift and must not be taken for granted. Aerosmith told us there’s light at the end of the tunnel for those of us that are suffering in their hit, “Amazing.”

And, most importantly, the dignified Winston Churchill lived by the transcendent credo, “Never, never, never give up.” This motto must be taken to heart.

So, cheer up and learn in this absurd little universe of unfathomable, unreasonable uncertainty. Stop thinking in pure absolutes, in black and white. Stick to the gray area where you will find joy and hopefully happiness. And, to quote the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new album, “I’m with you.”

September 7, 2011


Andrew Blitman

Science Columnist

2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Ignore the absolutes, stay in the gray area”

  1. Amazing–great contribution, Blitman, =).

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