Complementary states: we aren’t made for one thing.

We are of nature; therefore, we’re bound by nature. We cannot escape the rules. This means we can’t be only one thing – few things in life are singular in their characteristics. Except for maybe bacteria. They probably don’t suffer from complicated thoughts, mood swings, and competing desires. I’m not sure about viruses. Those little suckers seem angry. Definite mood disorder potential.

 I’ve spent most of my life trying to get to one state. All I wanted to be was content. It seemed like kind of a holy grail, albeit and lukewarm one. If I was content, I wouldn’t have the emotional struggles that challenged. I was willing to say good-bye to the potential for high if it meant I could stave off the lows. I’ve come to realize, however, that it’s not possible. I’ve even gotten there from time to time but I was unable to maintain. I used to think that was a “me” thing, a failing but I’m starting to realize it’s the nature of the beast.

We are creatures of contrast. We need a varied life. We certainly seemed hardwired to want it even when the changes ring in ugly. When we have light, we crave dark. Too much sun, we crave rain. Too much quiet and we blast the tunes from our favourite media device.

Life is about multiplicities. It is masculine-feminine, dark-light, negative-positive, birth and death and a whole host of over things that complement each other. To seek to exclude one part of any equation is to seek a life of imbalance.

It’s also more than binary. There are day and night, but also dusk and dawn. There are snowy days and foggy days in addition to rain and sun. There are happy and sad and ecstatic and a little bit off. There is even neutrality. What there isn’t is singularity.

Too much of any one thing, too much of one condition, is problematic. Even when we think it’s what we want. Even when it’s as benign as contentment. We are not hardwired for sameness. We are not programmed to travel in a straight line.

Variety is the spice of life * and all that.

Change is only problematic if you tell yourself it is or if the changes are too prolonged and dramatic. If the frequency of the wavelength is too severe, it’s a problem. We want the ups and downs to be somewhat constrained; we want rolling hills, not steep rises and deep troughs; we need a manageable shift to the inputs. Bouncing between the apex and the valley floor is exhausting and hard on the system.

Perhaps that’s why a surfeit of extreme shifts encourage ideas of seeking a flat and steady-state. A flat sea is pretty appealing after a hurricane. But time passes and you realize that with that calm, still sea, comes a lack of forward momentum. The sails just flop about, unused.

It’s the pits, not the changes that really throw us off. Directionality matters. Bouncing from neutral to high and back again is less offensive than bouncing between neutral and low.

I tell myself I wouldn’t miss despair, and I wouldn’t. Yesterday was a hard day that started with two hours of crying before progressing to a day on the couch, surfing from channel to channel because my concentration was nil, a day saved from total disaster when I made myself attend family game night. Which did not suck despite my anticipation of it doing so.

I would not miss days like those. Days like those are why contentment seems so sweet.

I might, however, miss dancing around like a maniac when the new book I ordered gets delivered to the door two days early. I might miss laughing at this or that funny thing. I might miss the soft heart that comes from observing babies, regardless of the species (though I hold baby ducks and bunnies with special affection). I would probably even miss grief for although it’s hard, much good can come from disaster and struggle.

We are of nature. We cannot be what we’re not. There can be no sweet without bitter. And who doesn’t like the sweet?

*William Cowper.

6 thoughts on “Complementary states: we aren’t made for one thing.

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  1. I agree. I hate the lows, but I thoroughly enjoy the highs. Right now, as I’m experiencing it all, I would not trade it for just an eternity of flatness. However, I know from experience that a flat line is something I can get used to. At first, you miss the good, but with time, you begin to forget how the hills look like. You stop craving it. You’re just coasting, content that there are no hurricanes. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am able to get used to a flat sea and I don’t always crave the mountain tops. However, once there, I never want to go back.

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  2. Yes its easy to say accept the bad with the good but we really don’t have much of a choice do we? I think the state of complete acceptance is called Equanimity, experienced by enlightened masters and the continually stoned. 😮


    1. We do have a bit of a choice though. I often have made the choice to reject the good if it means I can avoid the bad, by allowing myself to become completely numb to it all. I used to think that was what I wanted but I was wrong. Equanimity though and enlightenment, that would be all right.


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