The word “bifurcated” showed up in the news recently. I’m a communicator and a word-geek, and I think that one is a wonder – not least because it beautifully describes the tension of this time.
My “bifurcated” experience of the past several months has felt like having to choose feeling safe or feeling at risk; being dismayed or staying connected; being at ease or being anxious to the point of panic; having some modicum of clarity or feeling like I’m snorkeling through mud.
I have been desperately trying to choose one feeling, state of being, or perspective over another, as if doing the “right” thing happens at the expense of the other. I have been wrestling between this or that feeling/action/word to the point of exhaustion and depletion.
A wise woman reminded me that polarity always has been and always will be part of being human. We will never transcend the experience of this and that, life and death, joy and sorrow, yin and yang. When we accept paradox as part of the human condition, there’s a chance for peace to take root.
The key here is substituting one tiny word for another.
Rather than miring myself in the “or” thinking that requires me to dig in my heels, choose one ideology over another, and defend my little patch of ground to the metaphorical death, I can embrace polarity as natural. I can accept life on life’s terms. I can open to “and.”
“And” is inclusive, abundant and generous. It tells us there’s room here for everything, everyone, every feeling. All are welcome.
It is, though, at least a bit counter-cultural to live into what’s possible with “and.” Perhaps that's because "and" makes everything possible. Everything. And that might feel a bit overwhelming.
So we continue the hard work of expanding our inner containers to make room for all that awaits us when we open to "and." Until and unless we build greater capacity for paradox, we will continue to raise fierce resistance to life, and we will wreak havoc on ourselves and each other. Living in a world where “or” is the order of the day is living in a world of separation, “othering,” violence and war.
Choosing “and” is a way toward each other. First, though, it is a way toward ourselves. It opens space for us to more fully accept ourselves, embracing our own inner complexity and polarity. Befriending the truth of ourselves as frail, fallible and fantastic human beings opens wide the door to befriend our neighbors and begin to knit together this great human family.
To learn how to travel this path, I lean into words from the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, that have long offered me guidance and solace:
Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.
“Bifurcated” is a beautiful word – but it’s no way to live. Just keep going. Keep going past the “or” that has defined our lives and our culture and has separated us from each other for far too long.
Lean on each other to do the good work of building your inner capacity and acceptance for the paradoxes of life and the tension they can create. Keep opening to what’s possible for you, for all of us, when we ground ourselves not on what separates us but on one tiny and powerful word: AND.
Here you'll find some of my thoughts about communication, contemplation, yoga, life and various other topics. Thanks for giving them a read.