Delightful ambiguity


I am the first person to accentuate the fact that life is not as easy as “black and white” – I have experienced the truth of this so many times – life is more about navigating shades of grey. But I can understand why so many people try to make life that simple. Heck, I sometimes feel the desire myself!

Why? Because it would be SO much easier! No more complications, no more having to think of all contingencies, no more worrying about all the different angles and perspectives, no more having to think long and hard about the people in front you and around you…about their lives and experiences and where in the myriad shades of grey they find themselves and having to accommodate that in your thinking, speaking and living. Just simple, easily identified truth…one truth…

The mundane plodding life

But then I can’t help but think of the movie “Equilibrium” and of how (literally) grey that world of “black and white” becomes…how deadening simplicity and one truth can be (is?). And I think of Edward Norton’s words: “All people are paradoxical. No one is easily reducible, so I like characters who have contradictory impulses or shades of ambiguity. It’s fun, and it’s fun because it’s hard.” And I realise that it’s not only true of characters, but of real life; for aren’t we all mere actors on the stage of life (thank you, William Shakespeare)? Which, once again, confronts us with ambiguity – for easy and simple does not bring joy or the fulfilment that a full and complicated life has as its reward…

Life: the complicated version

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

So here’s to life in all its colourful shades of grey, to ambiguity, to the struggle of living complicated lives and engaging with complicated people. Here’s to no easy answers…sometimes no answer at all. Here’s to the colour and beauty and passion of living in the shades of grey. Here’s to the kaleidoscope of people and circumstances we then have the privilege of sharing life with. May God grant us the grace to live here as a blessing, even though it’s hard.


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