Black-white, right-wrong, good-bad, up-down, right-left. … The list is endless.

When I consider the simple beliefs I had early on, so many of them reflecting dualistic thinking, I realize how narrow my world and my vision were back then. Fortunately, I have discovered along the way that when I think in terms black and white I miss not the gray, but the Technicolor, in my mind.

When I think “good and bad,” “right and wrong,” I become instantly judgmental (mostly okay when about self, but often destructive in relationships). And, to my delight, I have found there are other ways to go than up or down, right or left, in a world as wide as wishing.

What is it about humans that they need certainty, especially when living is so often about uncertainty?  (I think the answer is in the question.) An either-or approach to anything – or anyone – locks a mind into expectations and/or judgments that either please or disappoint. Point being: Between pleasure and disappointment there exist many other possible reactions.

Part of the problem is the language of labeling. It has been said that, “Once you name something, you can determine what to do about it.” True, but the naming has to be exact – and honest. For example, if I tell myself I am lonely when in truth I am afraid, I can settle into loneliness, feel sorry for myself and never confront my fears.

In politics, business, religion, diverse communities and everyday life, labeling can have built-in blind (or bias) spots.

It is always important for people to know if they are going up or down or moving right or left but it is even more important for them to know they live in a world much wider than where they are.

The wisest among us have more questions than answers – and minds open to possibilities and process. They have grown to know that differences are inevitable and should be acknowledged, named, respected and discussed, not ignored, dismissed or used as weapons.

I have a very Republican and staunchly conservative friend (forgive the labels, please; there is so much more to him than that) who considers me a Democrat and an incurable liberal.

I keep reminding him I am Independent, that I am not liberal, merely enlightened, and suggest that he try it out.  

His focus seems to be on what this country once was and should be; mine on what it is and might become. In my mind, at least, there is no either/or since we respect each other, accept our differences and are open to discussing them.

I have discovered that whenever I feel locked in, I am my own jailer. Others can help me find the right key to move out and on, but I am the one who has to use it. Doing so, I have generally found that the little hyphen between either-or contains a wide, inviting – if challenging – world