I am not your "Both/And" Friend.

I know that the correct answer to all dichotomies, contradictions, oppositions, polarities, and competing ideas is "both/and". It is truer, and more spiritually evolved. It avoids nasty binaries. "Either/Or" (which is the opposite of "Both/And") is the cause of everything that is wrong, plus being Western, linear, Newtonian, Enlightenment and Modernist. It's a yuck.

But I am not your "Both/And" friend.

What I do is tease out oppositions and isolate them, so I can look at them and their relationship to each other. To pose choices, and paradoxes and conundrums. Because I think doing so will make us smarter and better at what we are trying to do.

For example, I recently noted that our thought that "the community precedes the individual" does not exactly line up with a commitment to being "anti-oppressive."

After all, sometimes communities oppress individuals. In fact, most Unitarian Universalists are Unitarian Universalists because they felt the need at some point in their life to buck all sorts of pressure from their community to strike out, on their own, into a new religious community. If we said that people ought to give a higher respect to the communities that formed and nurtured them, some 80% of UU's should go back to the church of their grandparents. Except that it wouldn't be there, because a lot of those grandparents would be back in the old country, respecting their communities.

Some times you can "Both/And" and envision an anti-oppressive communitarianism. But sometimes you have to "Either/Or" it, and stand up for the non-conforming, non-compliant, and the defiant individual.

If I make you impatient with my persistent poking at what we all think, pointing out contradictions and misalignments, that's my intention. Save yourself the trouble of writing a comment to tell me that I am posing overly broad choices and that there are middle ways and that the situation is probably much more "Both/And" than I am thinking. I get it.

Sometimes, you can only get to "both/and" by doing some "either/or" first.


  1. Edmund Robinson10:52 AM

    Yes, Tom, I don't think you are overly broad, here. I think we need reminding that there are costs to the both/and habit of mind. I have stated it myself as "inclusion is often the enemy of coherence." As some UU has a good idea and spreads it, some other UU is bound to say, "but have you thought about this set of people for whom your idea doesn't work so well." So the first UU goes back to the drawing board to reshape the idea to include the excluded group or idea. The result is sometimes that the original idea gets sharpened, but more often the result is that it gets watered down and less coherent. No one is acting badly or wrongly in this scenario, but you end up with a policy with the character of Velveeta cheese.

  2. I'm not sure what you're asking for here, Tom (other than expressing your oppression by Both-Andianism).

    But if you're presenting a (false, I think -- or at least overly simplistic) binary here and demanding that people sign up to one of them being good or better or more important... I'll go with community.

    But maybe that's because my community is UU. Not the one I chose (because I'm a native, not a convert).

    Communities, not really individuals, are where justice happens. But it's individuals in those communities that act (sorry, that may sound like a both-and), and they act out of the values and ideals of their community.

    "Together, we are more than we would ever be apart." I'll stand with the more than.

  3. Elisabeth4:43 PM

    Tom, I'm never impatient with your "persistent poking"..it is the danger of "we all think" to wallow in safe ideas. My mind and spirit appreciate the poke, the prod, get thinking.


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