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Thursday, February 3, 2011

day 31: babies, egypt and defining yourself by extremes

I got to spend more time with the babies today and on the ride home with Jeff we got to talkin'. I've always felt like Jeff and I were two sides of the same coin. He's very intelligent, well spoken and is constantly concerned with authenticity, especially internally. I can't think of a more admirable trait. The reason we're two sides would be that his search for truth and authenticity lead him down the path of christianity (he's actually studying/apprenticing to become a reverend) and mine down the path of atheism. It's oddly, not a contentious relationship in any way. Actually, him and his wife may be the only christians I know personally who are better versed in the bible and it's history than myself - and by no small margin - and it's lead to enriching conversations (with certainly more ahead). Today, as we often do, we found common ground on a topic I've thought a lot about over the last month.

   The conversation began about the troubles in Egypt with the protest demanding the end of a regime and the current president, Hosni Mubarak, refusing to step down. We were talking about when violence is necessary and if it's necessary. Classically the argument falls to WWII and Hitler, about how there really was no other way to talk or negotiate down the conflict, it could really only be resolved by removing him from power by force. In this case, Egypt provided an interesting juxtaposition because there has been pretty extensive reporting (including word I heard from one of my Egyptian students who has family in the region) that Mubarak had ordered military to pose as protesters but to incite violence and riots in hopes that the world looking on would not see the protest for what it was, well organized and peaceful. It didn't create the mob mentality they'd hoped, so instead the militants began spraying gunfire and tossing molotov cocktails into crowds. It showed a government willing to stop at nothing to annihilate the voice of those struggling to be free. It showed that 8 million strong in peaceful protest will some times not have the power to change the game, even while several countries including the United States call for aid to the country to be suspended until Mubarak steps down. With the world watching on, it's unsure what will need to happen to really inspire the change the Egyptian people are crying for. At some point, removal by force will become the only option for a free people to make the difference.

   The conversation Jeff and I had though, quickly moved from that to what makes people take extreme points of view like "War is never the answer", which is, in and of itself, a wonderful sentiment, it just doesn't allow for the complexity of nations in conflict or the rules the aggressors of any War set down. But war is only a convenient example. Why is there such heated debate on both sides of any topic when so often the truest answer to a question lies somewhere in the middle?

   The answer is control. It's truly difficult for a human being to accept chaos as a dominant factor in the playing-out of the universe. It's hard to envision your life in a world comprised of so many variables you have no way of deciding or knowing. This makes an extreme point of view very attractive. From the outside, feeling strongly about something gives us purpose. It gives us control. Do you like green more, or purple? GREEN! I could then show you a tone of green you hate, or put purple in a painting that takes your breath away. Some times it's harder to simply admit that there is no definitive answer. That even in the few times we really can say with absolute certainty that one thing is "right" and the other is "wrong", the timing, placement, approach and execution can change the answer drastically, thus making our right/wrong labelling a little superfluous in the first place.

   I'd like to think that the reason I've never been able to choose a favourite colour or favourite movie is because in some visceral way I've always been aware of how much circumstances play into our experiences. There's a particular song or band for when I'm cheery and another for when I'm angry. There's a time when I think abortion is the wrong choice and some when I think it's the only (but always believe it's in the hands of the parents). More important than accepting that though is accepting that any new information can change this at any time. Jeff surprised me a bit tonight by saying if he found tomorrow that christianity was unsustainable he would be forced to completely rethink the way he approaches life. This is a unique and completely admirable quality in any person; the ability commit to honesty so thoroughly that you would forsake even your "belief structure" to uphold honesty within yourself. 

   That has always been very important to me and has never failed to enrich my life while in it's employ. It may mean I assert with total conviction something one day and renege on it the very next, but it's as true to myself as I know how to be. And the fact that it's ever changing just proves the point. The answer to life's questions are rarely static. If you try too hard to lock onto one solid idea you may find in the end that you've missed the point entirely.

   Tomorrow this will beg more editing, but sleep is necessary. Night all!

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