Friday, January 20, 2012


In the first post on Living with Ambiguity I described a simple pendulum action like swinging on a rope. One end must be attached to a fixed, middle position high in the air somewhere. We then swing from extreme to extreme until the force providing the motion slows and we become more centered.
Fighting the pendulum experience by clinging to one extreme calcifies our thinking.
Working with Dementia victims highlights ambiguity, but every collection of people experiences the polarity of issues. Some issues are as monumental as life and death (Hospice). Justice is never defined by one extreme in exclusion to all else. Organizations manufacture issues based on preferences, such as the church music or architecture that God likes best. Giving women authority is always the elephant in the room.
Our brains are built to want certainty. Ambiguity is an unwelcome factor in reality. Ambiguity is an enemy that shoves us off balance as we strive to appear sure-footed and in control.
Political extremes are illuminated in an election year. People stuck on the far Left can’t live without a dependent group in our culture that reinforces the Left’s feelings of innate superiority. The weak must suck canal water because that is all they’re worth. They are then told that thimbles of canal water should give them hope and prove what a terrible country we live in. The far Left cannot tolerate ambiguity in society.
People stuck on the far Right think they must regulate as if we already live in eternal perfection. The far Right thinks they have achieved such a position by their own superior knowledge and behaviors. They are the self-elected few who dictate to all others too morally confused to choose for themselves. Grace is a chanted concept but poorly lived. There is no tolerance for ambiguity in society on the far Right.

A delusion is thinking you can function somewhere that doesn’t exist. Sickness and poverty, health and wealth are a result of living outside of perfection, which is where we are. Greed is the super glue that holds both extremes to their positions. They fight tooth and nail to live in certitude and deny mystery.

Living in ambiguity is an unavoidable balancing act. It takes conscious work and continual consideration of uncertainties. (See posts on Polarity or Problem. April 20, 2011)  Personally, the perpetual motion gives me vertigo. I don’t like it any better than do the extremists.

The Bible describes a God who lives outside ambiguity. He annihilated entire cities because they usurped his authority. Then this same God allowed himself to be put to death to redeem city and country folk alike. This seeming confliction drives us nuts. Christianity, as do all religions including atheism, demands we live with paradox.

Living with Dementia has taught me to hold certitude lightly.  Else the ambiguity may drive me up a tree.  Or up a creek without a paddle.  Or dangle me at the end of my rope.

So what ambiguities irritate you?

Confliction: a psychological state resulting from the often unconscious opposition between simultaneous but incompatible desires, needs, drives, or impulses

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