Saturday, April 13, 2013

Right or Wrong

I went to a talk last week at my church. The man speaking quoted the wise words of his wife, which were that if you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to convince yourself something is right, then you should probably get yourself out of whatever that thing is.

I find I have the opposite problem. I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself something is wrong. If something seems right, then there has to be something wrong about it. There just has to be.

But why? Why can't I just let myself be happy? Let myself enjoy whatever that thing is?

Right and wrong is so black and white. How many things can truly be one or the other?

As Hamlet said in Shakespeare's famous tragedy, Hamlet, "For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" (II.ii.234-235). It is we who label something as right or wrong, good or bad. As a whole, historically the human race has felt inclined to separate the world into two black and white categories. We've targeted different races as "good" or "bad." We've captured different body types as "desirable" or "undesirable." We've labeled different foods as "healthy" or "unhealthy." Yet, few of what we categorize remains under that label forever. Our opinions change; our tastes change; our scope of knowledge changes. After the Civil War allowed African Americans to be accepted in America, we turned to the Natives; the question of slavery quickly changed to "the Native question." There was a time when a full-figured woman was desirous, but for many girls today, "thin is in." Potatoes used to keep families fulfilled for months, but now it's been blacklisted under the form of french fries and potato chips.

Why do these things change? Is it possible that no race is "good" or "bad?" (gasp.) Is it possible that there's no "perfect figure?" Is it possible that in moderation, potatoes–even in the form of french fries and potato chips–are okay? So, can anything really be labeled as right or wrong? Good or bad? Desirable or undesirable?

I think the reason why we are inclined to put a label on things is because it's comforting. In a chaotic world where everything is flying around us a mile a minute, it's comforting to be able to put something in black or white. Things get lost in gray. I can tell myself, "No. I will not eat those Oreos because the health magazine tells me processed foods are bad for me." Easy. If I want a "good figure", I just have to stay away from foods that are "bad" for me. (Just an example, by the way. I love Oreos.)

But "good" versus "bad" gets even more complicated when it turns into "right" versus "wrong." If there's anything that cannot be cast in black or white, it's emotions. I ask myself on a weekly basis–sometimes daily–if what I'm feeling is "wrong." But how can what anyone feels be wrong? "Well, my religion says this." "My parents say this." "My friends say this."

I need to learn to stop worrying about what everyone thinks. I need to think for myself, and sometimes, just not think. I need to stop labeling everything as "right" or "wrong." I need to just live. And if something feels right, not question it.

A few posts ago I said to never stop questioning the world around you. True. Except your heart. Never question your heart.

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