Welcome to nuance

So, what’s the fanatical middle?

It’s the area inhabited by those of us not captives of the current political rip tide of ideology, hatred and “destroying” the other side.

It’s not necessarily centrist. One can reside in the fanatical middle and be a liberal, conservative or libertarian. But to live here, you can’t be married to that ideology. There must be a willingness to listen. To think. To study. To research.

If you’re “fer” it because the other side (however the heck that is defined) is “agin” it, the fanatical middle is not a place you spend time.

One of the key tenets of this space is an embrace of nuance, in its most positive sense.

This site won’t necessarily be replete with religious references, but below is at least one — a devotional I wrote for my church vestry (leadership board). I’ve edited it a bit for privacy, but it captures the type of nuance I’ll be looking to harness on this site.

So, enjoy, engage, interact and if you are racing down the superhighway of partisan pugilism, pull off on this little back road, which might actually lead you back to an America where people seek a little nuance in their life.

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Skip devotional:

 I texted Mother Abi last night at 11:56 p.m. (I hope I didn’t wake you up.) I said that I was nowhere on the devotional. She texted back at 5:04 a.m. (I DAMNED sure wasn’t up!) with ideas.

      As of noon today – nada.

      Then I went to a friend, asking for ideas. He started rambling on about something when suddenly the word “nuanced” popped into my head.

          Why did that pop into my head?

      Because I think about it all the time – and how important it is and how, well, nuanced nuance really is.

      I manufacture nuance in things that should be simple and I force simplicity on things that should be nuanced. The latter is a much bigger problem.

      And then there is the nuance in people. Oh we are missing so much of it.

      It’s amazing to me how many people we are just ready to write off as enemies or people we really don’t care about. And what about the nuance of the human condition at any given moment?

      I bet there as at least one person here tonight in real distress. Either from family  problems or health or emotions or something else.

     Yet I rarely account for those things when evaluating someone’s contributions to the meeting or in most any interaction. And when a problem does surface, I’m frequently guilty of what Stephen Covey calls the “autobiographical response.”

     PERSON A: “Well, I just found out today that I have terminal cancer and have 2 weeks to live.”

    PERSON B: “Man that’s bad, speaking of illness, I just found out today that insurance is going to approve my plastic surgery.”

     I think we get nuance right — a lot — at our church. I can think of multiple examples where we have made a deliberate, intentional, holy effort at treating a wide range of views with respect and dignity.

    Doesn’t sound much like current popular culture, though, does it? Our refreshing example of exploring the gray area – even foggy areas – is in stark contrast to the social battle lines that mark many political, ideological, moral or ethical debates. Either we’ve become really scared of the fog, or we’ve forgotten how slowly you have to drive through it without colliding with someone else’s humanity.

    It’s also interesting to me how and when we choose to explore nuance. There is a fine (or maybe thick) line between appropriately probing for nuance and unceremoniously and unnecessarily diving into the weeds. How many times have you found yourself choking on minutiae at the expense of the overall?

   On the other hand, sometimes diving deep isn’t an exercise in futility, it’s a beautiful exploration of all aspects of something that otherwise seems straightforward.

   Yes, nuance is so double edged – it can be the breathtaking illumination of an aspect of humanity as yet unrealized. It can also be the dark leveraging of the inconsequential as a weapon against progress, harmony and even love.

   But mainly, nuance is much more under- than over-utilized.

   Somebody said: Tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance.

  I worry so much about what I call the “Reverse Pharisee” effect. That in our zeal to be on the right side of things like “tolerance” and “the letter of the law” and “social justice” and “moral authority” that we end up just being judgmental in a different colored robe.

  I think about the controversial issues of the day – and I’m going to name some of them, which alone will cause a some of you to feel pangs or knots of stress. Abortion. Gun Control. Capital Punishment.

  And then think about how we describe positions on those issues – one is either “pro” or “anti.”

  But, what about the gray? What about people who are conflicted? What about people who, gasp, change their mind?

  What about people open to the nuance?

  But forget those people and their views – where in our hearts is the openness to those with different opinions. I can’t tell you how many times I read or hear: “I can’t respect someone who …..” And don’t get me started on the overuse of the word “shameful.”

   Author David Dark captures the danger in moving away from nuance and into a world of  black and white:

I want very badly to challenge the ease with which we succumb to the false divide of labels, that moment in which our empathy gives out and we refuse to respond openhandedly or even curiously to see people with whom we differ. As I see it, to refuse the possibility of finding another person interesting, complex and as complicated as oneself is a form of violence. At bottom, this is a refusal of nuance, and I wish to posit that nuance is sacred. To call it sacred is to value it so highly that we find it fitting to somehow set it apart as something to which we’re forever committed. Nuance refuses to envision others degradingly, denying them the content of their own experience, and talks us down tenderly from the false ledges we’ve put ourselves on. When we take it on as a sacred obligation, nuance also delivers us out of the deadly habit of cutting people out of our own imaginations. This opens us up to the possibility of at least occasionally finding one another beautiful, the possibility of communion. […] It could be that there’s no communion without [nuance].” David Dark

  I think Dark was talking about communion in a secular sense, but surely it also applies to the communion of the eucharist, the communion that is our church, our faith, our relationship with God.

  After all, the chief commandments are not so nuanced. Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbors as yourselves. Simple. Yet, so much rich, life-giving, beautiful nuance flows from those commandments into our lives, our associations our institutions and the people we love – the understanding is simple, but the nuance helps us fulfill and live up to those commandments.

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