A richer, fuller life can be had once we learn the important lesson discussed in this article series … How to Become Master of Two Worlds.
Joseph Campbell was a mythologist whose most famous work is “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”
In his book, Campbell asserted that the hero of his mono-myth cycle — the person who descends into darkness and returns with elixirs of life to heal the wounds of his or her tribe — becomes the “Master of Two Worlds.”
What did he mean by that?
Campbell was tapping into a very powerful concept. One which, sadly, is now almost totally lost in Western society.
This concept goes by many names in many traditions.
- Theravāda Buddhists call it vipassanā, which means “inner seeing” or “special seeing.”
- Christians call it contemplative prayer, from the Latin word contemplatio.
- Contemplatio translates into Greek as theoria, which is the root for the English words “theory” and “theater.” Theoria means “to look at” or “to consider” as a spectator. In other words, to observe with detachment.
- Students of Zen call this practice shoshin, meaning “beginner’s mind” or “zen mind”— a mental state in which one does not judge but detaches and merely observes.
Can you spot similarities among the above descriptions?
Each term mentioned describes a school of meditation.
And the point of meditation is to let go of the mind that decides, that cuts things in half, and begin to accept things as they truly are.
This is what we’ve lost sight of.
This is what’s harming us, both as a society and — for many creative people — as artists.
It’s Not “EITHER/OR” … It’s “BOTH/AND”!
I’ve written about his concept before, and how important it is, both to our evolution as human beings and our evolution as artists.
(Please note that the two are related.)
The skill I specifically mentioned is the skill of sitting in the tension of opposites.
Of recognizing that life is neither THIS nor THAT, neither GOOD nor BAD, neither LEFT nor RIGHT, neither CORRECT or INCORRECT.
Instead, life is big enough, powerful enough, flexible enough to contain both apparently opposed polarities … and more!
In other words, it’s not EITHER/OR … but BOTH/AND.
A perfect example comes to us from the world of physics.
By constantly asking questions about the nature of our universe, scientists made a startling discovery.
Light is neither purely matter (meaning, composed of particles) nor energy (meaning, composed of waves).
Paradoxically, light is both matter and energy AT THE SAME TIME.
I know, I know. It’s tough to wrap your head around.
But that’s my point.
The truth usually is.
And that’s why we so often fail to see it.
Unable or unwilling to take the bold leap into a non-dualized understanding of our world, we rush to judgements. Make decisions. Come down on one side or the other.
We think or say or act in the following manner:
- “All people who look or act a certain way are bad.”
- “Everyone who votes for that guy is an idiot.”
- “I’m in the right and she’s wrong.”
- “I’m on this side. Which side are you on? There have to be sides.”
This list, of course, goes on and on.
Frankly, the applications of EITHER/OR thinking are endless.
Sadly, however, each time we practice EITHER/OR thinking, we miss something valuable.
Stay Whole by Avoiding the “Split”
Psychologists have a term for EITHER/OR thinking. They call it splitting.
You may have heard it called by other names, such as “black-and-white thinking” or “all-or-nothing thinking.”
By whatever name we call it, splitting is a refusal to sit in the admittedly uncomfortable tension of opposites.
Why would anyone bother to do this? Why would we bother to make ourselves uncomfortable?
The answer is simple:
So we can better observe the relationship of apparently disparate elements. And, in this manner, learn how best to resolve them.
Our refusal to do this boils down to a failure of intellect.
When we split, we’re seeking the comfort of instantaneous gratification.
We’re reaching for the low-hanging fruit.
We’re like children who eat only candy all day. “Gosh!” we think. “This is so tasty!” But then, come evening, we’ve deprived ourselves of real nutrition. Hopped up on sugar, we tend to act out. We’re no longer in control of ourselves. This is how feelings get hurt and Mama’s favorite vase somehow gets broken.
It doesn’t have to be so.
This series of articles will explore how and why we fail to unite the dichotomy of positive and negative qualities — both in ourselves and other people — to create a cohesive, realistic whole.
It will also addresses how we can attune our thinking so we never again fall into this mental trap again.
Well … almost never again. Mistakes will happen. We’re only human, after all!
But take heart.
Once we begin this journey, our lives will become richer and fuller, unfolding in deeper and more rewarding ways than we’ve ever experienced before.
For artists, sitting in the tension of opposites, letting all things wash over and through is, the key to making good art.
And not just good art … but the best art we’re capable of.
Are you ready for that?
Then let’s begin!
Here’s wishing you the best of everything in all your endeavors.
How to Become Master of Two Worlds – Part One
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