The Excluded Middle

Interesting discovery – today feeling not so good, stomach bad, back sore and generally one degree under. Hope it is not the antibiotics I am taking for a poisoned toe as my digestion is always precarious without further insult. But enough, feeling bad is NOT interesting, but the insight it brought is, at least to me and I want to remember it for further use.

I was sitting in the courtyard, feeling irritable and down, when I suddenly thought, “This (mental) place, where I am so aware of my discomfort, is not a good place. I need to be in another place. Very like my being “above and beyond the space of pain.” (March 21 2012). Usually it is really difficult to get out of the trough when one feels down, with thoughts squirreling round in circles, but this time it was easy. Perhaps because I could see the choice so clearly. All at once I was in a better space, not singing and dancing, but clear headed and calm, with less physical malaise. Must remember this for future times.

Later reading Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife by Raymond Moody MD, who wrote Life After Life. Very interesting, particularly as had just been speaking of it to a recently widowed friend, whose husband died suddenly in Emergency without her presence. I had dredged up memories of Moody's book along with accounts from my family: my grandmother, drifting in and out of consciousness, told my mother, “I've been to a wonderful party and your father (who had died 30 years earlier) was there.Which was much better than a friend's husband with Alzheimer's who announced one day that he had been in Australia at a fabulous do – pity you weren't there, Sylvia.

My attention was grabbed by Moody's statement “the primary basis of Western thought is the excluded middle.” He meant that every statement is black or white, with no gray area. I had an immediate vision of the “excluded middle”, an unsung, unheard population of moderate thinkers, because life is never black and white. Real wisdom is provisional, just as the most accurate court witness is not the person who is convinced they are right.

I remember watching the Saddleback Debate where Obama and McCain were interviewed separately on the same topics. McCain replied in slogans; Obama was provisional. At the time I thought that this might sink Obama because we, especially voters, like cut and dried responses. In effect, we like life to be the executive summary, not the report. And it isn't. So most of us live in the excluded middle, where life is a muddle of confusion and every quick solution is mired in contradictory complexity.

A friend who was making the difficult decision to instituonalize a relative told me, “There's no good answer, just the least bad.” So we are the excluded middle, who can see both sides of an argument and who have a permanent devil's advocate whispering seductively in our ear. We know there aren't easy solutions, that you can't bulldoze through life, imprisoning and executing. At school, I was always beguiled by the “via media,” Elizabeth I's wiley appeasement of both sides, although no one was really happy and it led to civil war on a later century. So we go, about our ways like Chesterton's Secret People.






About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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