Either/Or is an album by Elliott Smith; the first Smith album I ever listened to. Back when I was in the extreme discovery phase of my musical inclinations, I looked up Elliott Smith, and chose Either/Or to start with because track #2 was titled “Alameda” and my parents had lived there early in their marriage. It is interesting the little connections and motivations that guide us sometimes, no? Turns out that “Say Yes” is my all time favorite Elliott Smith song, so this was a good album to choose.
Either/Or, however, for most people does not signify Elliott Smith. Some recent reading and thinking regarding enlightenment and spirituality has guided me to the realization that Either/Or is the underlying operation of society as we know it today, whether we acknowledge that fact or not. Male or female. Introvert or extrovert. Black or white. Good or bad. Wrong or right. Democrat or Republican. Yes or no. Public or private. Open or closed. Believer or non-believer.
We have, whether consciously or not, somehow created these polarizing ideals that we, whether consciously or not, perpetuate as we go about living. And I do not necessarily believe that this is the most healthy and positive way to live.
It seems to me that this extreme duality has progressed in the more recent part of history in a way that maybe it didn’t exist before. After all, most religions and spiritual practices operate on the “Law of Three” - that everything in existence is the result of the interaction of three forces in a given dimension. Or, think of protons, electrons, neutrons. Man, woman, and child. Black, white, and grey. Duality vs. trinity, and how it narrows our perspectives is what I am contemplating.
I believe that at most times, nothing is as decisive and definitive as to be lumped into a “one or the other” situation. I think we categorize things as such to make hasty interpretations that help us make sense of the world around us. As a society fixated on instant gratification and immediacy, we have not been trained to see how things are constantly fluctuating, changing, adapting, evolving - this requires a lot more time and consideration that we cannot commit to devoting. To cope, it’s Either/Or. Either/Or is how we think, see achieve, how we push ourselves ahead of others, and how we fail to be a lot more selfless and intellectual of people than we could, I think.
This is a dangerous game, to force our static projections and interpretations onto everything around us that we categorize. There is more to absolutely everything that we end up ignoring. Finding and understanding more is how we are better able to understand everything and relate to everyone that is quite intentionally and purposefully here with us on the planet. Quality of life, relationships, everything in it; it is all nurtured by exploring the space that exists in between what we think we know. With an open mind and an open heart. Duality is not conducive to either.
Whenever I’m thinking about things, the conclusion I always come to is that society has trained us to be this way - we cannot escape the way of life that has been adopted and implemented by all around us. But looking at this explanation a little closer reveals that it is actually a circle of further questions. Yes, society operates like this…but WHY? and HOW did it get to be that way? and WHAT would it look like to change that? is that even possible?
I always love to ask about anything I encounter "what impact does xx have on society, and if we realized and transformed it, how could we use it to change society for the better?" This is one of those things. Maybe this is nothing more than the lens through which I see society, but maybe it’s a bigger picture idea that we could all take a look at. Think about it. Talk to me about it.