This I Believe

John - Lawrenceville, Georgia
Entered on October 18, 2005
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: question
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I was in third grade when my teacher began instructing the class in “test-taking strategies”: things like answering the questions you are certain of first and then tackling the more difficult ones or eliminating answers you know are incorrect on a multiple choice test, leaving fewer answers from which to choose. I can almost hear Mrs. Kinsaul now. “Usually a true or false question that includes the words ‘always’ or ‘never’ is false.” Mrs. Kinsaul could not have imagined that, years hence, this truth would define what I believe.

In the eighteen years since third grade, I have discovered that the answers to life’s questions are seldom absolute. “Yes or no” becomes “maybe or maybe not.” Is it ever ok to break the speed limit? The law tells me I cannot exceed 65 miles per hour. But if a loved one were injured and I were driving to the hospital, would I feel differently? Probably.

It’s as if life is a true/false test on which extremes can most often be eliminated. Truth lies somewhere in the middle, near the fulcrum of the seesaw. Maybe this is why the term “extremist” is sometimes used as a derogatory term, implying that a person who ignores context in favor of a simple answer exists in a slightly different world from the rest of us.

Don’t misunderstand; this is not a clever ploy to avoid answering tough questions. Ultimately, I will decide whether or not I should obey the speed limit, but I recognize that each decision I make–each answer I give–may have far-reaching implications that wont exploration. “Why,” the most annoying question asked by children, becomes the most important question to ask because it leads me to discover ever more shades of gray.

This “nebulous cloud of maybe” is an uncomfortable place to live. My human nature screams for a simple yes or no. It wants to find answers in black and white, ignoring the gray in between. But I believe it is the gray in between where life exists–somewhere near the intersection of always and never.