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February 16th, 2021
Our tendency to categorize is driven by language. It’s as old as the Bible where man’s first task was simply to make up names for things, and thereby atomize the universe, separating things from that until we’ve cleaved everything down to the tiniest parts, from solar systems to quarks.
The goal of such naming undermines itself. By grouping things into a category like animal and plant, the world eventually fails to split neatly. The green sea slug, for example is categorized as half animal, half plant. The green sea slug, in this case is an example of nuance.
Nuance inherently exists between categories. Nuance is where the the seams and edges of life blur, where categories become useless.
The great value of nuance is that is comprises the path toward deep understanding. And the great tragedy is that an over dependence on the use of categories eventually makes us blind to nuance. A rigid adherence to the dogma of categories ultimately crumbles on itself. We begin to take things literally when humour requires a larger context with a dynamic nuance that volleys between categories.
Contradictions emerge as categories constrain perspective narrowly, and blind perspective of a larger context that reveals conflicting details.
The implication of nuance is pervasive uniqueness. There are many people, but it’s a terrible mistake to think that people can be identical. No two people in all of history have ever had the same experience by dint of the fact that no two perspectives can occupy the exact same time and place. Despite similarities, each of us is watching a completely unique movie of life. Nuance contains a slide across the spectrum that cannot be partitioned, differentiated and marked with hard borders.
It’s the very thing we desperately need to recall to the ways we think. Many of the hot topics filling current events and events of the last few years are riddled with the mistakes that come with a disregard and disused of nuance. We are suddenly too quick to judge, condemn, and conclude with the neat bow of certainty, and in so doing we rob ourselves of a deeper understand of the situation, our fellow person, and most importantly the compassion that arises when we take the time to understand where each and every person involved is coming from.