We Are Both

You can come to two conclusions while watching humanity: we are a horrifying species; we are a beautiful species. Evidence for either are plentiful. But depending on the events of a given time frame, we tend to lean towards the former, not the latter. We believe people to be immoral and undeserving. True, yes. But it’s never the whole picture.

As humans, we have a unique ability to understand the consequences of the choices we make. When animals make choices, as far as we are aware, they remain ignorant to the consequences. They perform tasks through instinct. It’s not saying that they are devoid of emotions and cannot be driven by them; what it means is that they do not have the capacity to measure what their actions do. Carnivores kill and eat because they are hungry, not because they take pleasure in inflicting pain. Animals fight for dominance for many reasons, including an increased opportunity to mate, not for greed or lust. Animals become gluttonous because they truly do not understand if their next meal will be their last if it comes at all. Humans are capable of understanding all this and more. And even though we humans can be slavish to our instincts, we have the capacity to counter it.

I listen to people speak in absolutes about various things in humanity and I can only shake my head. All X are good and all Y are bad. These might be good strategies to abide by for virtue signaling or for tribal cohesion, but they are false. Humans are not absolutes; we are various shades of gray for any situation. We can be both horrifying and beautiful, good and evil, and many more dichotomies.

It does well to remember this as we approach a fork in the road. As what some would argue was the worst presidential term in history comes to a close, I offer a differing light to examine this on. None of the other side, whichever side we examine this from, are wholly one or the other. There is not some grand absolution to deliver that will resolve other than to maybe look at these last few years as a mirror to which our own flaws have been shown to us. Perhaps the good that we’ve believed we were operating in purity with is not as what we believed. Maybe the evil we ascribe solely to the other side is a mere projection of our own insecurities.

Take this time to reflect on what we are: a dichotomy. We are able to see and understand the consequences for our actions which makes our actions both beautiful and terrible. Maybe if we see this, maybe if we reflect upon ourselves, the choice to become better, to be an example of beauty, will present itself.

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