Why Do We Judge? – Part Two

Part Two of the article series “How to Become Master of Two Worlds” explores the question of … Why Do We Judge?

In the first part of this series, we talked about what it means to sit in the tension of opposites.

To refrain from rushing to judgement, which allows us to better see truth.

But the question still remains …

Why Do We Judge?

The short answer? It’s a coping mechanimsm.

The long answer? It’s a bit more complicated …

Psychologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers have long studied this issue. And they’ve put forth many theories.  

Some of the oldest philosophies of dualism state that our minds merely follow the construction of our bodies.

Physically, we have a left side and a right side. A front and a back. Even our brains are constructed hemispherically.

According to this ancient way of thinking, We are therefore predisposed to see things as either or one of the other

Whether we agree with this theory or not is irrelevant.

Modern science tells us that, biologically and psychologically, we are wired to look at the world as a system of conflicts, opposites, comparisons, and contrasts. For instance:

  • BLACK must have WHITE in order to be ‘black.’ And vice versa.
  • THIS must have THAT in order to be ‘this.’ And vice versa.
  • We cannot have LEFT without RIGHT, nor UP without DOWN.
  • We cannot have RED STATES unless there are BLUE STATES. And vice versa.

So Which is Correct? The Parts … or the Whole?

The answer, maddeningly enough, is both.

The world is all the parts that we see and all the judgements we about things.

It is the parts … but it is also the whole.

And even so much more.

Put differently, the world is whole and perfect just the way it is.

We are best served to recognize that it is merely the fault of our minds that intercede and break things apart to create perceptions we judge to be good or bad, preferred or not preferred, worthy or unworthy, and so on.   

This is what I meant when I wrote that judgement is a coping mechanism.

Biased creatures that we are, most of us will swear that our interpretation of the world is the “correct” version of reality.

Doing this bolsters our egos, which creates an expanded sense of self. 

But, you see, that’s all that’s being expanded: our egos.

The world can never be expanded. The world already is … and it’s beyond our human comprehension.

We can only expand ourselves by getting out of the way of the world and accepting it — and ourselves — completely and without judgement.

 How Can We Get Out of Our Own Way ?

The closer we come to the truth, the more we begin to notice that our egos are never the answer.

They’re merely the masks we put on hoping that our various false faces will facilitate interactions with the outside world.

But problems arise when we start to mistake our masks for our actual selves

Many popular stories have captured the importance of this distinction.

Consider these three examples:

  • Masks can be literal … devices that cover our faces. In the Star Wars movies, a good Jedi Knight named Anakin Skywalker gets seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. The literal mask he dons transforms him into a force of evil, Darth Vader. As Vader, Anakin Skywalker commits many horrific deeds. Until, that is, he opts to save his son, Luke, from the same evil that once consumed him. At which point, his mask is removed, and he is made whole once again.
Anakin Skywalker Luke Skywalker Joseph Campbell Master of Two Worlds Damon DiMarco
  • Masks can be figurative. Consider the anti-hero in Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. A handsome narcissist, Dorian Gray discovers that his portrait will bear the weight of his aging, as well as his many transgressions. Years pass during which Dorian’s hedonistic exploits leave nary a mark on him. He destroys people’s self-esteem. Blackmails old friends. Murders contenders. And yet he grows younger in person while his portrait, transforms into that of a depraved monster. At last, however, the weight of Dorian’s misdeeds catch up with him. In anguish, he stabs his portrait with a knife … and ends up killing himself. 
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Masks can be psychological. In the movie, American Beauty, nearly every character divests him or herself of their psychic or invisible masks. Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey) drops his rigid, social pretenses to explore his primal urges. This forces his wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening), to do the same; neurotic to the core, she has an affair to liberate herself sexually. At the same time, 16-year-old cheerleader, Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari), captures Lester’s attention by lying about her sexual maturity. Meanwhile, Lester’s neighbor, retired Marine Corps colonel and raging homophobe, Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper), yearns to see what it feels like to kiss another man with passion.
Mena Suvari as Angela Hayes in American Beauty

So the question remains:

In each of these instances … which viewpoint is correct?

Is Darth Vader an evil Lord of the Sith who commits unspeakable violence at the bidding of his master? Or is he really just poor, misguided Anakin Skywalker … mourning the loss of the only woman he ever loved? 

Is Dorian Gray a soulless perpetrator of evil? Or the well-to-do bon vivant with an angelic smile and perpetual twinkle in his eyes?

What about all those characters from American Beauty?

Is Lester an uptight bore or a libertine? Is Angela innocent or a temptress? Is Frank a homophobe or a homosexual? 

Who are they really?

Which answer is correct? 

As you might have begun to suspect by now, in each of these cases …

The correct answer is not EITHER/OR but BOTH/AND! 

Why Do We Judge? It Wasn’t Always So…

In the next installment (Part Three of this series), we’ll examine more ancient schools of thought which promoted acceptance and non-dualism.

These philosophies were reflected in the way ancient languages were constructed.

Many were designed specifically to express the wholeness of existence rather than a “split” experience of reality.

And guess what?

It’s possible to recover this viewpoint of wholeness. Oneness. Non-dualism.

To not split the world and sit more-or-less comfortably in the tension of opposites.

As Joseph Campbell alluded to, a successful hero is only successful once he or she becomes Master of Two Worlds.

Becoming a Master of Two Worlds makes a tremendous impact on our creativity.

We’re getting there, slowly but surely.

For now, try to think about what we’ve covered in this article.

And be on the lookout for Part Three of this series!

May all your creative endeavors bear fruit,

Damon DiMarco

Why Do We Judge? – Part Two

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Damon DiMarco

Damon DiMarco (born October 16, 1971), is a New York City author, actor, playwright, and historian. His oral history work has been compared to that of Studs Terkel. He was born in Princeton, New Jersey.