Gray Area

Moderation in all things…

A Google search of the above quote fails to yield a specific source. Several variations can be attributed to Emerson, Wilde, Aristotle, Petronius, the Holy Bible, etc., etc. Moderation seems a much valued character trait in our society, especially in the intertwined realms of politics and religion. However, much like those drawings depicting optical illusions wherein an object appears to be darker or lighter than it really is against a contrasting background, moderate behaviors manifest themselves in comparison to the extreme acts of others.

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Political and spiritual leaders frequently use this to gain competitive advantage. Sometimes displaying a moderate temperament reveals an aptitude for working well with others, or highlights an emotional make-up of sensitivity and/or compassion. Conversely, sometimes people in power want to act boldly and with great intiative and so they ridicule so-called moderate behavior as docile and indecisive and weak and incompetent. A similar strategy is to advance opinions and viewpoints way beyond the norm, and, even outwardly hostile to competitive ideas over a lenghty period of time, during which extreme positions and behaviors devolve into a  general perception of appearing moderate, responsible and disciplined.

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Recently, a popular politician in our region won a big election and received nationwide acclaim for his moderate views and ability to work with contrasting sides of a huge partisan divide. A small, crazy but powerful element acting from within his own “side of the aisle” enjoys portraying him as too appeasing, yielding and compromising, a traitorous “turncoat”, even.

colored circles

At some point, one comes away with the sense that powerful people, either from within the ranks of their own, or while engaged in debate from “across the aisle”, take great comfort in the monochrome illusion of modertation that allows them to appear as a special breed apart from the competition. While thriving in the comforting complacency of the “gray area” they enjoy the ability to draw battle lines wherever and whenever they choose so they can step in out of them intermittently to maintain their own advantage and privilege.

A lesson learned from all this is to choose a life moderated by clear lines and gentle boundaries, of contrasting shafts of light and color and shadows of darkness, in a manner that defines who and what we are, rather than railing in anger and cynical despair at vague, poorly-conceived illusory notions of what we are not.

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