Dichotomies in Society

From a very simplistic point of view, a dichotomy includes opposite views on the same subject. Some societies divide between those who are most concerned with earning money, accumulating and/or using goods, and those who are searching for their spiritual essence.  Some of us seem not to be on a spiritual journey at all. Others seem to be stretching for the spiritual constantly. Often they (either sort) want to take us along.

A dichotomy is grossly evident in politics today:  there are those captivated by a sense of knowing what is right for everybody, and those who want to take care of everybody, a swing from total individualism to socialism. The gradations between self-centered do-it-my-way people and love-thy-neighbor-all-the- time people, as with any dichotomy, can be subtle, variable, and infinitely numerous.

M. Scott Peck (M.D.) talks about stages of religiosity from the atheist to the mystic. (1) Applied outside religion, this framework of stages could include those entrenched in touch-it/work-it realism and dreamers whose feet seem, proverbially, rarely to touch the ground, and any topic on which there are differing opinions.

In each case, one finds extremes which probably do not reflect the general population; the more inclusive picture may look more like a bell curve full of compromise.

There are overlaps of gradations in the categories spanned by a dichotomy, and there may be a progression of change during a given lifetime. Aside from figuring out where you might be on a given scale, there is the question of where (if anywhere) you want to go, and how to integrate the dichotomies we face every day. Do you yell at the driver who cuts in front of you, or whose car spews forth an intrusive racket the driver considers music, or do you tolerate them? Do you get pulled into their frame of reference, or do you keep a calm demeanor, just let it wash over and away from you, and go on your way?(2)

Personally, I prefer staying centered and letting go of judgments. But I can’t always do that. Sometimes I get sucked in. It sucks to get sucked in.

Are dichotomies good for us?  My answer is yes because they present different perspectives from whatever we hold personally and sometimes we need to hear those differences so that we can be more clear on what we think, and why.

But we each have to find our own way, in our own time, and maybe, eventually, we find out what it’s all about. Whatever “it” is.


Dichotomy in nature, with gradations.  January 2013

For more on this topic, see Finding The Tiger, A Coming of Age, “Figuring It Out”, page 32.

(1) I’m not sure which of his many books contains these references.

(2) I love that calm and clam use the same letters.

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