From the violence in the Middle East, to political conflicts in our nation's capital, too often we can get caught up in the logical fallacy of the false dilemma. It's all around us-- on the news, in our personal lives, our communities and relationships. This false dilemma limits our choices, reducing the complexity of our lives to only two alternatives—either/or—either right or wrong, good or evil, my way or your way, all or nothing. And too often what starts out as a difference of opinion divides people in painful conflicts.
Yet in the natural world, opposites are part of the larger whole—day and night, sunlight and shadow, earth and sky. We participate in nature's cyclical patterns in which opposites blend in dynamic balance. For humans and animals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide while plants do just the opposite. Breathing in and breathing out, we balance each other.
The ancient wisdom of the Tao Te Ching, written over 25 centuries ago, reminds us to transcend conflict by looking for the larger patterns, the dynamic balance in the opposites around us, for:
When some are called beautiful
The rest are seen as ugly.
When we prize one quality as good,
The rest becomes inferior.
Yet each extreme complements the other
Large and small,
Light and dark,
Short and tall,
Beginnings and endings
Bring balance to life.
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2.
We can each do our part to create greater balance within and around us. By making more mindful choices we can avoid falling into the pit of polarized thinking, avoid the mental trap of the false dilemma, and reduce the violence and suffering in our world.
Whenever you face a potential conflict, pause to take a deep breath and slowly release it. Then, as you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, remember this wisdom of Tao. Ask yourself, "Where can I find the greater balance?"
Where is the harmony of sunlight and shadow in this part of your life?
I wish you joy on the path.