I have an activity in class called the Line Game. I have two seemingly opposite categories, set on two different sides of the room. Then I ask students to stand in the place where they think they are. For example, one side of the room would be, “I’m completely a morning person,” and the other side would be “I’m completely a night person.” But there’s a whole spectrum of space in the middle, so students get to decide how they define themselves.
This way of thinking is about paradoxes, which I’m all for. In the Courage to Teach Retreats I’ve done this year, we spend time on paradoxes. My very thinking is about paradoxes. Or, to be clear, I believe in two thoughts that can seem opposing. Many times, the thoughts are opposing. And yet, I have both.
There’s a major component of this paradox thinking, right there – the word “and”. And is the way I move through my thoughts. And allows me to think the way I do. And is a hard concept for many, only because there’s often a sentiment that things must be one way or the other. Either this or that. I’ve spent a lot of mental time and energy trying to figure out if I’m one or the other. What I’ve come to realize is that many times I’m both. And. Sure, I might lean more in one direction, like being on that spectrum in the Line Game. But – and – that doesn’t take away both feelings.
This is what happens to me, often, in a day.
I enjoy hearing my daughter tell me about something funny she watched on TV, and I tire of listening to a synopsis of a TV show.
I have a different opinion than my wife about a money decision, and completely believe her opinion makes perfect sense.
I enjoy the process of teaching, and hate grading.
I have a great, fulfilling class and am upset that some of my students acted like jerks.
I am grateful for the life I have and wonder if there is more to life than this.
I feel comfortable in gender norms and roles, and work on thinking beyond them.
I feel content with the body I have and work on being more healthy and fit.
A phrase I say often is, Life is simple and not easy. (“Like Buddhism”, one of my students recently said to me. Yes, like Buddhism.) Simple, because life has basic concepts, not hard to understand. Living completely within those concepts, being in those life moments, is not easy, not easy at all.
So thank God for And.