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The Grey Problem -- How To Better Understand Ourselves

Updated: 2 hours ago

"Black-hearted evil
Brave-hearted hero
I am all, I am all I am"


Finding Yourself in a World of Categories

On the winding path of self-discovery, a paradox can easily be revealed. We crave the stability of knowing ourselves, as identity crises have their existential shortcomings. We may desire fitting neatly into boxes labeled "artist," "engineer," "friend" and so on, and steer clear of the criticism that we're "pretentious", therefore not who we really think we are. Whether or not it is correct, is another matter. Yet, the tighter we grasp these labels, the further we may stray from the intricate ecosystem of who we truly are.

Imagine labels as stepping stones, leading us across the expansive river of identity. They are not the destination, necessarily, but the journey. Even the path of mastery, can be regarded as one that might as well end upon our deaths. As ironic as it may sound, even academic education won't necessarily "cut it", when there is still more to learn, even by the most senior of professors.

Each "stepping stone", bears a name of its own – athlete, musician, introvert – is just a foothold, a temporary sense of place. The more "stones" we collect, the the self spreads, encompassing its diverse potential that might as well never be fully realized. Yet, clinging to one stone for too long risks petrifying us on that spot, our identity staying still on a single note that might as well vanish with our pride.

Whose to say these labels will stay with us forever? We must develop this inner core so we won't suffer, should we be incapable of fulfilling our part in a label that we see as a basic part of us. The human body and mind is prone to many illnesses that could paralyze them away from doing things we like. We must be prepared for that.

The allure of labels lies in their promise of clarity. They categorize the world, neatly sorting people and things into familiar boxes. This structure provides a comforting illusion of control, a sense of security in understanding in the chaotic nature of existence. We label because knowledge is categorized to make sense of the infinite aspects of experience. And we must organize knowledge to learn it more effectively.

But the world, in its complexity, rarely conforms to binary labels. We are not simply "artists" or "scientists," "extroverts" or "introverts." We are vibrant mixtures of these and countless other facets, a symphony of contradictions dancing within. We hold within us the light and the dark, the rational and the intuitive, the artist and the engineer, all woven into the "collective" that is our individual selves, regardless of the external world.

The true challenge lies not in collecting labels, but in mastering the art of navigating them. We must "dance" across the stepping stones, embracing the fluidity of our identities. For the human being, by default, is too inconsistent to be a logical being. Because logic is to be learned, not something we are born with. Only through logic we can have a far greater understanding of reality -- and ourselves. It is a body of knowledge to be learned, and an art that can be mastered with enough practice and study.

The unparalleled influence of philosophers stems from the fact that the non-pretentious ones aquire deep understanding and knowledge that is imperative for their expertise in logic. Without this expertise, their influence wouldn't be as significant. And none can simply be born with it because humans are too impulsive to be intrinsically logical, even if they retain an innate degree of rationality.

As such, seemingly opposing forces merge into a unique and ever-evolving whole.

Being born into different religions, for example, doesn't have to be a matter of choosing one over the other, as they might witness as they grow up. Living in interfaith is about embracing the richness of two or more traditions, finding the harmony where seemingly seperate paths converge into one without confusion.

Another example: teenagers are both kids and teenagers, and that fact makes them, ironically, too old to be "just kids", but too young to be fully adult. Additionally, the age of majority is not universally agreed, so you may be an adult legally on one country, but not in the other. They are, therefore, in a state where there is no clear sense of age other than "teen". Parents might not be entirely confident on whether or not they should regard their teenage children as grownups or as kids. That, however, can be changed by assigning responsibility to privilege.

Either way, the teenager may often wonder, Who am I? Do my parents have the same authority over me as they did when I was a kid? Am I old enough to do certain things on my own? And so on. Our true selves may be confusing even by the time we live as adults, not really understanding our place in the world, questioning the meaning of life...

let us shed the skin of rigid labels and venture into the open expanse of self-discovery. Let us learn to embrace the contradictions, our inherit flaws and the "or/and" of our existence. For it is in the woven web of our selves that we discover who we are and what we are capable of.

Embracing the Spectrum Within

The color grey can be comprised of variants of contradictions. Black's grimness surrenders to white's purity, birthing a shade that defies logical stability. How come? Logic determines that "A" cannot be "B" simultaneously. Yet, in grey's embrace, this claim is disposed of when the unity of both "A" and "B" create "C,", which transcend its binary origins of them both..

Can we say grey is more of a color than red or blue? The question itself feels futile. Each shade holds its own unique place on the spectrum of existence, just like emotions deserve in a world devoid of repression and its impact. Grey simply inhabits a different corner, existing nevertheless.

This symphony of contradictions echoes within us, too. My mind, you say, might appear to be a monotonic landscape – repetitive maybe even a little boring. Yet, within this perceived greyness, words bloom like sunflowers. Sentences dance like sunbeams on a lake, offering a richer variety than what my solitary lifestyle has in store for me individually.

This is the solution of the "Grey Problem," you see: It's the acceptance of the paradox within, the recognition that our inner landscapes are not black and white, but vibrant platfroms from which threads of light and shadow, logic and emotion emerge, thus realizing our potential in different ways.

Embrace the symphony of your contradictions, the quiet hum of repetition alongside the soaring crescendos of creativity. Because only then, you'll be able to love people for who they really are. You can then love not their actions or their impressive feats, but their dynamic self, distinct from their deeds. That is because the deeds do not reflect upon the true self if:

  • They are doing them reluctantly.

  • They are doing it to hide their true colors.

  • Both.

Since we are capable of both good and evil, what allows our grey-ish, human nature, is the freedom to act consistently or otherwise.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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