Denim Spirit: Consonance and Dissonance
Double-mindedness can feel like a problem that needs to be resolved. At least I often feel the need to fix it when it takes over my heard or heart. It is telling that being ambidextrous is lauded and marveled over but being of two minds or a divided heart is regarded as being ambivalent, irresolute, or crippled by indecisiveness.
Here is an example you may have experienced it too. One day at the lake I was deeply troubled by the fact that my most difficult decision of recent days was which bicycle I was going to buy. Yet there I was sharing a world, a city — perhaps even a neighborhood — with people who were forced to decide what portion of their dinner they would save for breakfast because they didn’t have any more food and weren’t sure where the next meal would come from. My problem was how much I would invest in something that is important to my lifestyle but that I could live without, while theirs was how much they could afford to eat in that moment.
Then, not the next day but close, I was at the lake again and overwhelmed by the stunning beauty of Nature’s complexity — the wind that moves the waves that wash and cleanse the water, the sunlight filtering through the dark face of the waves to deliver life to the thousands or millions of life forms below the surface in the water, silt, and rocks. Every element in just this one ecosystem can be peeled back to reveal other elements upon which its life and wellness depends. The exquisite interdependence of this intricate web we only partially understand with all our grand science, welled up within me in that moment as unadulterated joy. I even hugged Rabia because, as the poet Anne Sexton wrote, “the joy that is not shared dies young.”
Then I remember my angst from the previous day.
That double-mindedness is what I mean. When two conflicting realities, both as true as the sun, meet in the same moment it stirs dissonance like the major and minor second in music. One moment everything is consonance — a pleasant resolve of life’s melodious qualities. Then thud, conflicting cords crash into one another and suddenly everything feels chaotic and unresolved.
Because double-mindedness doesn’t feel good, our instinct is to reach for a solution. We prefer harmony or a wee smooth rhapsody to the unsettling vibes of double-mindedness. Yet, the ability to host two conflicting truths in the chamber of our heart at one and the same time, is vital because both are real. If we reach for the one and cast away the other then we diminish our understanding and our ability to see more clearly.
I have been pondering how this works in politics. If we can only hold one vision of truth at a time — say progressive or conservative — then how much has our field of vision been reduced? But that is at the lofty level of ideas, and our politics of the moment are emotionally enmeshed in social wedge issues. People and groups are either good or bad, safe or dangerous, like us or against us. If we can only host a single political, cultural, ethnic, or racial affinity we are far from ambidextrous — we have only one hand.
Chris Glattly says
Well said. At Passover we eat the sweet charoset with the bitter herb (horse radish) thanks to Rabbi Hillel.. I’ve always thought this was a practice to affirm the process you speak about, rather than the “you take the good with the bad” interpretation.
Cam Miller says
right, both “yes” and “no” at the same time.
Edwin Beck says
For those of us who regard religion as something of a hoax – which is only some of the time – at other times it feels like a possibility. Blind faith persons who hold beliefs that hold them in ignorance? They’ve fallen for the hoax and filter all opinions through that sieve. Those who seem to have found the “possibilities” in faith by study and intellectualism – these folks cause me to pause and operate momentarily on “Well, why not?” Those moments seem primarily predicated on the issues they’ve adopted like social justice, hunger, political action, consumerism, as well as other (issues) which have nothing to do with Iron Age myths held over to the present for the sake of institutional longevity. So, that’s my brand of “double-mindedness.” And I guess that’s where I’m sticking – but only for today. Tomorrow’s bound to be another day’s mindedness. Thanks, Cam.
Cam Miller says
I don’t mind, Ed (pun intended). Thanks for both of your comments! Religious or not, Happy Easter!!