In the hot and cold waters in the sauna, I contemplated what I had learned from last week’s hike. The man and woman, the day and night, the sick and healthy, the weak and strong, attractive and ugly, rich and poor, tall and short, I had found the two sides of it all.
Last week at the the Buddhist temple of heaven and earth, I felt the feeling I’ve felt for a long time now, but saw it manifested before me. Namely, that what we call right and wrong are constructs of our society. There is, has been and always will be only what is done and not done. If you see evil happening and do nothing, that’s what you do—in your non-action lies your action. If you hurt someone, you did it. If you help someone, you did it. It is the existential power we all possess and gives meaning to every single choice we can ever make.
You can choose with each step of your life, positive or negative behaviors. What is right for one, is wrong for another. Christianity and Islam are not right or wrong, one is right for one group of people, and therefore the other appears wrong. Murder, rape, theft et al. are unequivocally wrong, because it takes the choice away from the other person, but it is done. The thief wants money, takes it, it is right for him, but wrong to the person from whom he stole. The laws of regulation are necessary in a functioning society, but within those boundaries, you can find your own philosophy of right action.
We see the two all around us; the moon and sun, up and down, most words have an opposite. Sometimes, to teach new words, I use the opposite to convey the idea. I know this may not seem like the most transcendent insight ever—like the moments at Phish shows when you “realize” that we are all dancing to and hearing the same song at the same time, or when climbing trees and you feel their eternal strength and their life giving oxygen breathing into your lungs for the first time. Nevertheless, it is a compact moment of recognition of the dual nature within and without us.
The duality is powerfully true. The gray areas of love, family, work, religion, morality and posterity are harder issues. They reside in that limbo because there is not always an opposite of those problems. The confusion of loving someone who you can barely tolerate, putting up with in-laws or stepparents for your families sake, taking heat from an idiot boss just to keep your paying job are the concerns that make the gray areas so difficult to escape from. When the choice is not just a yes or no, when the choice involves repercussions to next generations or consequences for others, it is a tougher selection.
Art lives outside the gray area. People either like it or don’t. Sports have winners and losers. The world is composed of infinite dichotomy. The contrasting views on life and spirituality provide us with our personal preferences. We are raised and eventually decide what direction our lives will take. In free countries we are given this right of choice. Our choices are confined within the rules of our society, but remain ours. The existential wisdom is that nothing you do is without meaning.