March 14, 2010
When we are young we need rules. This structure and guidance is what allows us to grow while being safe. Children (and many adults) often don't recognize that just because you "can" it doesn't mean you "should". So as children we are given rules. They are usually black and white: Don't put your hand on the stove, Do not cross the street without an adult, Don't run with scissors, etc.
As we get older and learn that rules are conditional we still crave structure. As teenagers who are stretching wings and learning to analyze situations and make our own decisions we often find structure in another way, our identity. Look at the movie The Breakfast Club with a Delinquent, a Basket Case, a Geek, a Prom Queen, and a Jock. We flock to identify with a group because black and white is easy. Black and white is comfortable and safe.
As we emerge from this safety of being in a group and the rules of our parents we find ourselves in our early 20's. We make our own rules, we find new groups, and we discover it's not always so easy to apply black and white thinking to situations. Yet, many people stick with this. It's what we've known for so long. It's worked well so why change it.
The "why" is simple. The most well-rounded, insightful, and open-hearted people find solace in the grey area. For example, in yoga, there are so many paths yet the most successful teachers have explored the variety in order to find their own style. When asked "What style of yoga should I do?" they will usually ask "What do you hope to gain from your practice?". The same can be said of career advisors, spiritual leaders, friends, and all the influential people in our life. Those who are willing to step back and say "I can't tell you what to do but I can tell you what works for me" are able to help us become stronger by asking more of us. They ask us to build our own path rather than walk blindly down one set for us. This is finding comfort in the grey area.
It's not easy but when you allow the grey area in and learn to be comfortable you will easily find peace during the ebb and flow of life. As Rufus the Apostle said in the movie Dogma, "I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant."