The human brain likes to think we can put everything in neat, clean, little boxes. It says that everything can be clearly defined, sanitized, and labeled. Something is either THIS or THAT, YES or NO, BLACK or WHITE*, 0 or 1. This type of programming is designed to minimize stress, so we can focus on whatever task is at hand.
The reality is we’re swimming through a zero-gravity ball pit with questionable sanitary conditions. The brain does not like this at all, and so it tries to deal in absolutes.
There are no absolutes in witchcraft, and I’d dare expand it beyond that, but let’s try focus on witchcraft, shall we? As witches, we understand that the world is messy, entangled, and full of nuance. Energy is energy, and how it is utilized can be viewed positively or negatively – but the reality is those positions are more about perspective and subjective behavior than anything else. Living is a constant cycle of birth and death, cells creating, splitting, destroying, dying, and reforming from matter. We know that death is not an end, but a change – a transition of states. Spirit is both physical and metaphysical. We are of society, but we are marginal as well.
The difficulty is being able to examine words, thoughts, actions in close detail while also being aware of the larger, messier picture. And here’s where the title comes into play.**
We’ve already established our brains love to trick us into absolutes to be comfortable. But that’s not reality. We see this daily on the internet. Someone posts a thing and it’s deemed the best/worst thing ever. Someone creates a counter-thing declaring opposition. A third person creates a thing that supports the first thing. The fourth person creates a thing that says, “well actually…” and shows how 1,2, and 3 are all simultaneously both right and wrong….middle ground is somewhat found, and we all go on our way until the next post. The reason for all of this is the illusion of of the absolute and our own myopic tendencies.
It’s easy to declare something or someone is THIS/THAT, GOOD/BAD. How we do it is that we compare what we hear/see/read to our own experiences and then file it into the appropriate box: RELATED or OTHER. It’s very easy to react to everything we encounter as relevant to our own worlds, or not. This is myopic vision – the problem with only examining our world in a nearsighted manner.*** It’s also myopic to think everything should be catered to you. Which is pretty darn ridiculous.
A very basic example: For years I was a fashion jewelry designer. I had a variety of clients to design for. For the company, I created extremely avant-garde jewelry for “Market Week.” These over-the-top pieces were meant to catch the eye of store buyers from Macy’s, Target, Nordstrom’s, etc at exclusive buying events. Then specific pieces were designed for their own client markets and price-points. One week I’m designing basic necklaces for middle-age, middle-class income office-working women, and the next week I’m doing a “goth rocker” collection for teens at Target with a $5 maximum price point. Is there cross-over in the market between the high fashion socialite, the admin at the local business, and a 13 year old gothling? Possibly, but it’s a very, very small overlap.
Which is to say: not everything is being targeted to YOU. Not everything put out into the world is meant for your consumption and pleasure. If it’s not directed at you, that doesn’t make it automatically bad, wrong, or other – it means it’s not for you. And there’s nothing wrong with that – but there’s no need to fall prey to absolutes. This goes from products to important social programs to beliefs.
-Don’t need a fancy designer rose gold watch to tell time? Then you don’t need to buy one. But there’s nothing wrong with that guy over there getting one. No skin off your back.
-Already have health insurance through your job? Awesome! But most jobs in this country don’t offer health insurance to their full-time employees, and even find loopholes to avoid it, so other people DO need access to affordable healthcare that won’t bankrupt them – and the whole of society DOES benefit from people having access…so perhaps you should care.
-You have very specific ideas about deity? That’s your experience. Someone else having different ideas doesn’t make YOUR ideas wrong – or their’s, especially if they’re not bothering you. So do what works for you personally. If you find it engaging, then communicate respectfully versus being an asshole. Or contemplate the appropriateness of “To Be Silent” here. Because that’s being a decent person, and you might actually learn a thing.
As Witches, we can consciously disengage from the cycle by seeking to understand it. As I mentioned in the Witch’s Guide to Etiquette: “Witches absorb, think, then act.” To avoid falling prey to the illusion of the absolute and myopic vision, consider the following:
1) Read or listen carefully (not just the title or a part, the WHOLE thing)
2) What is the person/piece trying to say?
3) Who is this directed to? Am I the target audience?
4) How does this affect me, if at all? How does it make me feel, and why?
5) Should I engage or not – why or how?What are the possible results of my action or inaction? Is it worth the effort?
6) Do the thing or don’t do the thing and move along.
As witches, if we use this method when processing what comes across our path, we become better equipped to handle issues of all kinds. It enables us to reach out to others and seek to understand them. Our words and actions can have a more powerful, productive effect on the world around us.
*As an artist, black vs white plays directly into is “absence of light” vs “all light” and “presence of all colors” vs “rejects all colors.” In terms of witchery, it was fashionable in the late 20th century to declare oneself a “white witch” to signify that you meant no harm, that you were a “good witch.” In terms of identity, it becomes blurred into a sense of “dirty” vs “clean” – which plays host to a load of racial and cultural baggage that is so very uncool. So the title of this post is a play on the sense of a false absolute. Labels can be harmful, despite intentions.
**I wanted to title this piece “The Illusion of the Absolute and the Fallacy of Myopia” but I severely doubted anyone would read it. Though my high school AP English teacher would probably love it.
***FYI, I’m not picking on people who are physically visually impaired in the near-sighted spectrum. That’s been me since 5th grade. It’s a metaphor.