As I get older and build experience upon experience, my view of the world and human behavior has become broader. When I was young my vision was more narrow and to me, most things could be described in black and white. I believed everything could be judged as either “this” or “that”, no gray matter between the two (yes, that was a double entendre’). One of my favorite songs, “My Back Pages, written by Bob Dylan and made popular by The Byrds, poetically reviews this fact of a youth’s view of the world.
But in this process of maturing through life, I repeatedly discover that gray is what creates the textures and nuances of living and of our experiences, much like the gray in a black and white photo.
An image that has high enough contrast to wash out the grays, is harsh, hard to decipher, and usually lacking in the rich details required to make it worthy to be called art. In politics it creates divisiveness; in economics it creates disparities that should be considered unacceptable in developed nations; and, in advanced civilizations, the limitation of black and white concepts would be considered primitive – at best.
The gray areas are where the real moments in life exist. Not in the extremes of black or white, but in the mundane middle ground, where thought and emotion, discomfort and joy, and sorrow and love permeate the spaces, between the black outlines and empty white places. Gray is what fills a well examined life, to make it rich and thick like a delicious gravy that completes a Thanksgiving dinner.
Gray may also represent all those relationships we have, with business partners, friends and loved ones, and people we may chance to meet momentarily. Not because they are absent of color, but because each one bleeds into the other, sometimes devoid of boundaries and delineation – thus giving continuity and connectedness to all the other grays and even giving more meaning to the blacks and whites we encounter at the edges.
Unfortunately, in communicating with others about ideas, ideals, and beliefs, we are often presented with only black and white solutions to black and white problems. Politicians and the Media are especially responsible for making this mistake, presenting the side they wish to convey, without any of the gray. The gray is where two opposing sides can agree and find common ground, where we are all similar and our longings and hopes are the same. The gray is the real issue, that has been usurped by the glaring contrasts of black and white, held for ransom by two opposing or manipulating sides.
My hope is that those who still live in a world of black and white will mature to find the richness of life that the rest of us now see.