image (c) bob traupman 2009. all rights reserved.
I hate “either / or” alternatives, Lord.
Ultimatums, accusations, mud-slinging — all that.
I think You are always “both / and . . . .”
I think you are always calling us to live in the middle, in the center,
or at least to realize that the pendelum of life is always swinging back and forth
and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
So help us, Lord, to stop following the extremists on either side and be reconciled with each other.
Make us one, Lord. Make us one. As a Nation. As families. As a Christian Church. And within ourselves.
Perhaps, dear reader you might like to reflect on the value of reconciling opposites, of seeking our center; this taken from the Introduction of my yet- to be-published manuscript “Both / And: Spirituality in the Balance. . .”
Both body and soul. Soul and body. We need both to be human. We must learn to tend to both body and soul.
There is good in bad . . . Bad in good. Those who say there is no bad within them portray themselves as filled with truth and light and, therefore, can be evil incarnate.
Left and right . . .Right and left. A person who is missing one of his arms misses something important. A church that does not embrace left and right misses part of the truth.
Democrat and Republican. A politic that does not embrace both left and right also misses part of the truth. A one-party government would be disastrous.
Sin and grace . . . Grace and sin. Jesus teaches us that the one who realizes he is a sinner is the one who is open to grace.
Spirituality and sexuality . . . Sexuality and spirituality. Every one of us has a body, and by that reason, we are sexual beings, whether we are celibate or not. Spirituality needs a wholesome sexuality and sexuality needs spirituality to be redeemed and meaningful.
Heaven and earth . . . Earth and heaven. As we strive for heaven, a place of bliss and fulfillment, we remain rooted in our earthiness.
Up and down. . . Down and up. Sometimes down is up and up is down. (“He has cast down the mighty… “).
Sickness and health . . . Health and sickness. Sometimes sickness helps us find spiritual health and, similarly, good health only may make us feel invincible.
Life and death . . . Death and life. Life prepares for death which opens up to new life after death.
Masculine and feminine. Feminine and masculine. Each of us has both qualities within us.
Able and disabled . . . Disabled and abled. Sometimes the disabled do more with their disability than the able do with their ability.
The seeing and the blind . . . The blind and the seeing. Sometimes the blind see more than those who see and sometimes the seeing are blind.
Belief and unbelief . . . Unbelief and belief. Sometimes those who do not believe search harder and love more deeply than those who believe.
Hope and despair . . . Despair and hope. Sometimes those who despair find a truer hope.
Bound and loosed . . . Loosed and bound. Sometimes we need to be bound (by discipline) and sometimes we need to be loosed (from fear).
Darkness and light . . . Light and darkness. We would not appreciate the light if it were not for darkness.
Reality and fantasy . . . Fantasy and reality. Strive to live in reality but enjoy fantasy. Sometimes fantasy shows forth a future reality.
Progressive and conservative . . . Conservative and progressive. Seek progress but conserve what is worth conserving. Sometimes the conservative is truly progressive and the progressive truly conservative (as in the environment).
Rich and poor . . . Poor and rich. Sometimes the rich are poor in that they may not recognize their need for God and the poor can be truly rich in that they do.
Teacher and student . . . Student and teacher. Good teachers produce better students and good students produce better teachers.
Sane and insane . . . Insane and sane. Sometimes the insane prophetically see the insanity of the world that the “sane” do not see in themselves.
And the either/or tendency can become violent: Israelis and Palestinians . . . Black and White . . . Gay and Straight. . . Protestants and Catholics. . .
All these conflicting tendencies can tear at our soul. We must find resolution or we will not be at peace. Thus, it is an important secret of life not to consider opposites as either/or but both/and. The key to all spirituality, I think, is to find a spirituality in the balance. In media stat virtus.
The problem is that we do not tolerate differing points of view and we may hate and want to do harm to those who embody them. What would happen if we taught people to LISTEN to one another, to search out the truths in each other’s position. Thus, I think the church and political leaders of our country might well call together those who are pro-life and pro-choice to find a way to respect one another and to listen.
You know the statue of the blind-folded woman who represents justice? She holds in her hand a balance. In choosing between disparate elements, we should choose a little bit from the right and a little from the left so that the scales balance. A little bit of light and a little bit of darkness. A little bit of body and a little bit of soul and, yes, tolerate a little bit of bad with a little bit of good in ourselves and in others. (We just cannot t dispel or disperse all the weeds from our garden!)
I strongly feel that by seeking both sides to a question we will be led to experience new horizons in which we can find God and ourselves and at least a little bit of the truth that will nourish and strengthen us.
Seek to draw the disparate pieces of your life together. Seek balance and tolerance by seeking the truth hidden (to you) in your opponents’ views. Seek respect and reverence for those who are different.
I believe very strongly that the Truth embodies both the left and the right. I know from my own life that “symbolein” — the force that draws together rather than casts out or seeks to destroy (diabolein)– is a powerful force indeed.
For me, that Force is JESUS, who is for me at least, the Stillpoint of the universe or universes.
To him be glory and honor forever.
priest / writer
I am not sure church and political leaders will be able to reconcile the pro-life and pro-abortion morality. We must be aware that pro-choice stands for pro-abortion. If you want to say there is a choice, then it is for life or death. If the 10 commandments were changed to “Choose to kill or not to kill” then I guess things would be different morally. I wish to say “I am a Catholic, not “I am a Catholic, but I believe in choice.”
Saying that, Bob, your writing is excellent and always a joy to read. Janet
Seeking common ground and common good . . . . salient thoughts as the inauguration of a new administration and a time of new hope approach. Polarization has been dysfunctional — reconciliation, inclusion, respectful disagreement are needed. Thanks!
Bob, as I give a bit of food to my friendly homeless person waiting outside the grocery store, he always blesses me and is still thanking me as I drive away.
I have been reading your site and it has been an inspiration to me. Your words provoke thoughts and as trite as that sounds thoughts are often prayer in search of understanding. Keep up the effort for I know it is an effort to find your way into the tedium and joy of a column.