There is a fundamental divide – let’s call it The Divide – running through our world and ourselves. It pitches the masculine against the feminine, quantity against quality, economics against ecology, hierarchy and ‘power-over’ against empowerment, the external against the internal, and ‘doing’ against simply ‘being’. And these are just a few examples drawn from the many in the same theme.
The divide runs either side of a middle fulcrum point. But the scales are not in balance, having long been tipped over to one side.
The modern world slides down this incline. The prevailing quantitative and material view of things fuels the ongoing drive to try and turn pretty much everything (even fresh air and dreams) into either a saleable commodity or a mere numbers game where the questions are reduced to ‘how much’, ‘how many’, ‘how big’, ‘how fast’?
Thus economics – the study of the dimensions of our home (our world, our planet) – usually triumphs over ecology, the study of the inter-relationships within our home. And so the world mostly focuses on that which is measurable, whilst generally downgrading that which is not measurable or not easily measurable … or even deeming it not to exist in the first place.
This same drive has now entered even into the sphere of the mind. The dominant medical model attempts to categorise more and more incidences of emotional, personal and mental distress, turning them each into a neatly labelled ‘disorder’, ‘illness’ or ‘syndrome’. And the people involved become mere patients … passive recipients and consumers of the doctor-prescribed drugs that the commodity/material/bio-physical world-view – here in the shape of mega-businesses like Johnson & Johnson or GlaxoSmithKline – wishes to sell as the best treatment.
This deep imbalance has of course left a spiritual vacuum into which extremist perversions find space in which to take root. ‘Islamic’ jihadism is one example … though this merely seeks to exploit the anti-materialist vacuum even whilst it reinforces the rest of The Divide through a ‘masculine’ glorification of violence and a triumphal oppression of women.
So where should the true balance point sit? Should we choose art over science? Should we prefer the psycho-social over the bio-physical? Should we opt for synthesis over analysis? Should we focus on causes instead of symptoms? Should we ask ‘what’s happened to you’ instead of ‘what’s wrong with you’?
One answer to these questions is: “It all depends”. It all depends on where you are, how you are, what you’re doing and what you want to accomplish.
If you’re starving then obtaining a large quantity of food is obviously your main concern and you aren’t going to worry much about its quality.
If you’re a counsellor you’ll ask your client ‘what’s happened to you’ and focus on the psycho-social. If you’re a doctor seeing a patient concerning a physical ailment, you’ll likely need to ask ‘what’s wrong with you’ and focus on the bio-physical.
And if you’re a writer, trying (as I am now) to create a piece of writing, well, then you’ll likely choose art ahead of science … as studying the science of linguistics probably won’t help you that much in feeling your way towards what you want to say and crafting how best to say it.
So yes, “it all depends”. But in the main we need to become more fundamentally aware of The Divide and look to tip the scales towards to a new balance point. More focus on ‘Gross Personal Happiness’ and less on Gross Domestic Product. More exploration of meaning and less ‘explanation of variables’. More diversity and pluralism, less uniformity and standardisation. More survival through symbiosis and co-operation, less ‘survival of the fittest’. More of the individual and small-scale, less of the mass-scale. More of the beautiful and less of the merely functional.
And in the longer term, if and when we can redress the balance, we might choose the porridge that is “not too hot and not too cold but just right”.
Goldilocks took the middle way. Goldilocks as Buddha.