living in harmony 10 14

We live in a world that urges us to pick a side and see things as good or bad, right or wrong. Perhaps it's an evolutionary relic—our ancestors needed to make quick decisions to survive. But this black-and-white thinking often makes us overlook the nuance in every aspect of life. While it might feel easier to categorize things as purely this or that, such simplification does a disservice our understanding and growth.

Think of politics. Complex issues are boiled down to hashtags and slogans, leaving little room for meaningful dialogue. Parties at opposite ends of the spectrum duke it out, each claiming moral and logical superiority. The public is often caught in the middle, grappling with extremist views when the reality is much more nuanced. 

The Complexity Trap

On the flip side, we sometimes fall into the trap of making things more complicated than they are. How many times have we overthought a situation to the point of paralysis? How many scholarly articles are written in complex jargon that obscures the essential truths they contain? The complexities we add often serve as a barrier to understanding and action.

This complexity is not just a mental exercise but is reflected in societal patterns. Our laws, regulations, and relationships suffer from unnecessary intricacies. And while there's beauty in the complexity of human systems, that beauty can turn ugly when it impedes progress and perpetuates inequality.

Finding Balance Through Moderation

The ancient Greeks advocated for moderation through their concept of the "Golden Mean," where the best course of action lies between deficiencies and excesses. Even Buddhism teaches the Middle Way, avoiding the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. In modern terms, we could think of this as finding a balance—understanding that a situation has multiple facets and considering them all before making a judgment.

Moderation is not just an individual pursuit; it's a societal necessity. The solutions to many of our current problems—climate change, social inequality, political polarization—reside not in one extreme or the other but in collaborative compromise. Finding a middle ground is not only essential for resolving disagreements, but it's also crucial for innovation. Ideas merge, and new solutions arise when we open ourselves to different perspectives.

Collaboration: The Synergy of Differences

When different parts come together to form a whole more significant than the sum of its parts, that's synergy. This translates into collaboration in a community—when individuals with diverse backgrounds and skills unite for a common cause.

Picture yourself at a crossroads where roads from different directions meet. Each path represents a viewpoint, and standing there, you realize that no single road holds the entire journey's truth. That’s the essence of collaboration—a meeting place where we set aside rigid opinions and allow room for the perspectives of others. It's not about losing ourselves or our values but expanding our understanding by shedding the ego and adopting humility.

Recognizing we don’t hold all the answers is not a sign of weakness; instead, it paves the way for us to tackle life's complexities together. It's challenging, but this inclusive approach is the cornerstone of finding solutions that serve individual interests and the collective good of our communities and world.

Embracing the Power of Compromise

While the term 'compromise' often carries a negative connotation--suggesting a sacrifice or loss--it’s an integral part of a functioning society. Think about any successful relationship you have. Isn't it built on a series of small compromises that allow for harmony and mutual benefit?

Compromise shouldn't be viewed as a loss but as an active choice to foster balance. It is the acceptance of the idea that the needs of many outweigh the wants of a few. It's a shared solution, a collective decision to achieve a unified goal.

How to Apply These Concepts

1. Self-awareness: The journey to a more balanced perspective begins with self-awareness. Take a moment to catch your thoughts as they meander into the territories of extreme judgments. Are you instinctively categorizing a situation as solely good or bad, right or wrong? This binary way of thinking might offer a quick emotional fix but seldom serves you well in the long run.

By pausing to challenge these initial judgments, you can perceive the finer details, the nuances often lost in the rush to make snap decisions. Recognizing these subtleties is like turning on a light in a dim room, allowing you to navigate through complexities with greater wisdom and less prejudice.

2. Open Dialogue: Engaging in open dialogue serves as a catalyst for breaking down the walls that our extreme viewpoints often erect. When confronted with complex issues, widening the discussion circle to include diverse perspectives is beneficial. Think of this approach as an intellectual mosaic where each piece, opinion, or insight adds to a more intricate, more truthful overall picture. It's like turning a monologue into a rich, layered dialogue that educates and cultivates empathy and shared understanding.

3. Seek Compromise: Whether navigating the intricate dynamics of personal relationships or wading through the murky waters of public discourse, compromise is often your most valuable tool. It's not about meekly giving in or diluting your values but finding a middle ground that pays homage to all parties' essential needs. Imagine compromise as a bridge built from both sides of a divide. Each step toward the center respects the structure's integrity while acknowledging the unique materials each side brings.

By seeking compromise, you're not just resolving a disagreement; you're co-creating a solution that can be more robust and enduring than any singular perspective. It's a proactive choice, a mutual agreement to forge a balanced path that honors individual viewpoints but prioritizes collective well-being.

4. Champion Collaboration: At the heart of addressing complex challenges lies the power of collaboration, a synergistic force that amplifies our capabilities. This entails supporting existing group efforts and taking the initiative to unite people.

Imagine a quilt of disparate but beautifully coordinated patches, each representing different skill sets, viewpoints, or solutions. As a champion of collaboration, you're both a patch and a part of the sewing, integral in crafting a larger, more complete picture that could not have existed without your active participation.

The Gray Isn’t Just Gray—It’s a Spectrum

As we navigate life, we must remember that reality isn't composed of stark contrasts but intricate patterns that require a nuanced approach. Neither simple nor overly complex, the truth often resides somewhere in between, in that fertile ground where moderation, collaboration, and compromise converge.

So the next time you find yourself caught between two extremes, remember that life’s answers are rarely found at the poles but usually somewhere in the middle. In embracing this middle way, we enrich not only our understanding but also our collective well-being.

Imagine life as a tightrope stretched between two poles each labeled 'extreme.' Most tend to lean one way or another, sometimes dangerously close to tipping over. But the secret to a balanced and harmonious existence, whether talking about our personal lives or society at large, lies in navigating the middle of that rope. It's about acknowledging that the vast space between the extremes is rich with possibilities, ripe for exploration.

When we embrace this middle ground, we create a stable path for ourselves and the community we are a part of. We thus set the stage for a life and world balanced in wisdom and empathy.

About the Author

jenningsRobert Jennings is co-publisher of with his wife Marie T Russell. He attended the University of Florida, Southern Technical Institute, and the University of Central Florida with studies in real estate, urban development, finance, architectural engineering, and elementary education. He was a member of the US Marine Corps and The US Army having commanded a field artillery battery in Germany. He worked in real estate finance, construction and development for 25 years before starting in 1996.

InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as Please support our work.

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