Lately, I’ve observed a lot of dichotomous thinking in the news, social media, politics, and even among friends. I’ve noticed a lot of the arguments seem to be locked into a zero-sum game, where there is a sense that there can only be winners and losers and nothing in-between. Being subjectively “right” (even when supported, or not, by objective facts) seems to trump the recognition that we are all human.
I have friends who are conservative, liberal, religious, non-religious, and everywhere in-between and love them all. I am trying to avoid the temptation to view the people in my life through the polarized narratives I am fed by politicians and the media, even though I get “stuck” in my own stubborn views at times. I imagine a world where we could all talk about politics, religion, and other controversial topics with some nuance, humor, and abiding awareness of our mutual humanity.
My spouse recently told a story that included the notion that love isn’t like a candy bar. I asked what that meant and she described the following (I’m paraphrasing, as she said it more clearly and eloquently): If I have a candy bar, I can keep it for myself and enjoy it until it is gone, I can share it with you and we can both enjoy it until it is gone, or I can give it to you to enjoy until it is gone. Love isn’t like that. Love isn’t a limited commodity. It is always available.
It clicked for me that the polarized arguments I see raging all around me are made through the lens of scarcity. There is no sense of shared use of resources – everything is a zero-sum game. If I get the resources, you don’t and if you get them, I don’t. Even if we are sharing and playing nicely together in the sandbox, there is this sense that there isn’t enough and that all will ultimately be lost.
Love and compassion aren’t like that – they are the ultimate renewable resource. There is no scarcity and no aggression and worry about keeping what love is “mine”, or judging how much compassion others have. It is an infinite resource. We are the ones who self-limit love and compassion, who believe there isn’t enough to go around. When we give and receive love and compassion to/from one another, we don’t lose anything; there isn’t a battery that is drained; there is an endless reserve.
As Jack Kerouac wrote: “Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.”