Jummah Reflection:  Tension is Beautiful

Jummah Reflection: Tension is Beautiful

Jummah Mubarak, Shabbat Shalom, and TGIF!

This week, I’m thinking about the innate tensions that arise in community (and society at large), and how important these are to our personal and collective evolution. I’m thinking about people who are in polarity opposite me, and I’m feeling as grateful for them as I am for my ideological kin.

Tension is how we solve problems. Not through anarchic tumult that scratches our revolutionary itch and makes us feel like we’ve won the day, but¬†through a painstakingly slow dance that never ends–a back and forth of beliefs that gets tested in practice–and adopted by our species only when it’s proved itself beneficial for all of us.

These polarities that create tension (liberal/authoritarian, orthodox/progressive, faith/logic) and the people who inhabit those poles, as well as all of us who lie on the spectrum between them, exist for a reason. The answers to the Big Questions that we desperately want answered as a species can’t be found in EITHER extreme. But for us to have the spectrum required for exploration, the extremes must exist. Light can’t exist without darkness. Peace cannot exist as a concept without conflict.

All of the conscious work we do is a response to something. The mistake we make is when we begin to believe that success of either of the polarities are our goal. When we believe that we have to defeat those who disagree with us (yes, even on our deeply held beliefs) we begin to destroy the very infrastructure that we NEED in order to work on solutions.

Skilled activists and leaders know that the way to move a community in the direction they need them to move is by increasing the tension and discomfort of everyone along the spectrum between two given poles. But let me be clear about this: without those poles–without the tension–activism (and any other endeavor for finding solutions, be they economic, spiritual, social or political) is dead in the water.

The Big Ideological Win is a pipe dream. Our goal in a democratic society is to strike a balance between poles and understand the value of the tension–how to maintain it, how to tighten when needed, and when to release. Destroying either end of the spectrum will not result in an ideological utopia. As is true in the case of many ‘revolutions’, the pole that is displaced almost immediately gets re-created in the new system–often by the very people who tried to eliminate it in the first place.

Polarities. Exist. For. A. Reason.

This may seem deeply unsatisfying for some people, but our egos are what convince us that WE have found the means for solving the problems humanity faces by virtue of ignoring the deeply held beliefs of half the population on any given issue.

Tension is beautiful. The discomfort we feel when we are consistently forced to reconcile our deeply held beliefs with the deeply held beliefs of others who disagree with us is not a bug of humanity, it’s a feature.

As always, we go forward together, or not at all.