“... once any one difference of any sort, even an idea, exists anywhere, then it demands or creates conditions for the evolution of subsequent events.”
Bill Mollison

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual

Black and White


In a recent online-conversation (which I hope to get to in another post) I was indirectly accused of seeing things in terms of black and white. Naturally, I don’t feel I see things in black and white but I took the comment under consideration for a day. At some point durint the day I remembered a precious lesson about black and white I was given from a friend and work-colleague. She was a religious Jew though not orthodox. I am not sure I can draw this distinction clearly enough for people who have not lived in Israel – but I will try as it makes a point I hope to get across.

Orthodox Jews are an extremist phenomenon – they dress differently (in black and white!), they live mostly in closed and isolated communities, their will rise early in the morning for prayer (at least the men do), the will take a mid-day break to pray and do so again the evening – their life is timed around prayers. They are very different and hard to miss.

Religious Jews come in many shapes and flavors though there are dominant patterns. They will usually dress regularly – the only visual sign may be a head-cover for men – women may have no visible signs. They will usually keep the Sabbath (no driving, no electrical appliances, no cooking, etc.). They eat only Kosher food and in Kosher restaurants. They are highly integrated and may not stand out in secular society. They are also very open and tolerant (unlike orthodox Jews) – they don’t need or expect you to share their beliefs or lifestyles.

One day, I don’t remember the context, she explained to me that in the eyes of secular Israelis she is considered religious yet in the eyes of orthodox Jews she is considered secular. It was an enlightening lesson on perspective. We see things within a relative context – usually our point of reference is our own life, beliefs, habits and preferences. When we encounter something that is so distant from our point of reference (ourselves – usually white) it can be easy and tempting to rationalize it away as categorically opposite (black). Leaving it as such imposes and upholds a narrow and generalizing perspective – an extremism.

Yes, my beliefs and actual life is very different from what it has been for most of my life and from most people’s lives (at least those people with whom I’ve been connected so far). It is very easy to write-off me or my arguments off as dichotomous but after giving it careful consideration I do not consider it a valid argument – though you are quite welcome to make an argument for demonstrating that I am but otherwise I consider it to be an escape. If you throw it at me (or at anyone else for that matter) it may be worth to meditate on why you need an escape? With me you are always welcome to simply bring things to an abrupt end – no explanations or excuses are required.

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