Escaping Duality

We live in a world that wants there to only be one truth.

A world that demands you’re either liberal or conservative.

For us or against us.

A world of black and white.

One that demands we conform to a truth it sets for us, instead of the truth we find in ourselves.

And that’s the problem, then, isn’t it?

That when the world around us, a world that is flawed, hollow, confused, demands we conform to the polarities it has set for us.

The deepest truth Judaism ever taught is that there can be multiple points of view and they can all be valid.

Even more important, a person can possess multiple truths within themselves, truths that may seem contradictory.

A person can believe in peace, but demand war.

A person can disagree with someone, but still respect them, still treat that someone like the glorious, perfect creation he is.

If only we realized that truth isn’t a flat, two-dimensional existence.

But rather a three-dimensional, complex, layered reality.

If only a person could be conservative but not agree with everything Bill O’Reilly says.

If only a person could be liberal but still be tolerant of those he disagrees with.

Recently, a person wondered how I could write a post about moments in my life that were clearly traumatic and argue that they were good moments.

She believed that I was in denial, that I hadn’t yet mourned these shocking, painful, disturbing moments.

To her, I say that two truths can exist within a person at once.

A person can acknowledge and mourn trauma, see it as the negative reality it is. Accept all the pain that comes with that acknowledgement, and work steadily to deal with it.

And that same person can then take that moment and turn it into the biggest positive they’ve experienced in their life.

In fact, I would argue that that person has to do that.

Because if our life is dominated by single truths, by blacks and whites, with no gray and no color, and no contradictions…

Then our lives become the kind of thing we can all just watch on O’Reilly. It can just be transmitted into a crappy sitcom, and we can all just decay like the rest of the world that thinks like that, not living a life that’s rich, that’s true, that’s deep.

Let go of duality. Accept plurality. Your soul is begging for it.





97 responses to “Escaping Duality”

  1. disqus_hm7XieRT48 Avatar

    Could you argue that on a limited worldly level, two truths can co-exist.
    But on an absolute, eternal level, there is only One Truth – The Eternal One?
    Could you also argue that you are just trying to make non-Jew’s feel at ease with the idea that you have a chosen path to God? Isn’t One God, One Truth?

    1. BirdieWaters Avatar

      “Could you also argue that you are just trying to make non-Jew’s feel at ease with the idea that you have a chosen path to God?”

      I enjoyed your comment. My view on this from experience is that Non Jews hold to their beliefs as strongly as Jews do. For them, there is no feeling of being uneasy about the choices Jews make or any person from any religion might make for themselves. Each searches for their own path whether to G-d, or who they perceive the “Source of all that is” to be, or a path absent of religion entirely and they’re at peace with their decisions, many times so eager and fulfilled that they want to share their path with everyone or crusade in order to force their firmly held beliefs on others (I’d include atheists in this).

  2. Chaya Kurtz Avatar

    G-d and the Torah are the absolutes. Humans are too limited in intellect to be absolute.

  3. BirdieWaters Avatar

    Out of the park again!! Really resonates with me today in particular.

    We do indeed discover truths subjectively. Things come to us through the filter of our mind throughout the bulk of our earthly existence, therefore this is bound to happen, like it or not. If it were not meant to be this way, would it be this way?

    This subjectivity is inevitable and accounts for the differing viewpoints, for example, Chereidim are sincere in their certainty that they have “absolute truth” and live it, just as MO are convinced of the same concerning their interpretation. Is one correct and the other incorrect? Is the truth always somewhere in between? Can we meet in the middle for the better, despite our differing views? Goyim obviously have a common thread of truth throughout their religions as well which boils down to a striving to love both themselves and others.This is noble. It’s in the walking out of this low entropy state that we all differ.

    As far as denial of reality, I agree that we can see things for what they truly are without fearful beliefs and despair kicking in, dragging us into the pit of negativity regardless of duration. It just doesn’t serve us and we must be honest with ourselves about that no matter how good it may feel to dwell there. There is a sick kind of reward that comes to the person who allows themselves to partake in it…a kind of lingering embrace rather than a guiding hand, nudging us forward along the path.

    All things, even those meant for our harm can and must be viewed as the opportunities they truly are, or we’re missing out on the greatness in store. What better example do we have of this than Yosef? It’s the preferable & profitable outlook.

    Again thank you for sharing the truth you’ve gathered in this powerful post.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      “This subjectivity is inevitable and accounts for the differing viewpoints, for example, Chereidim are sincere in their certainty that they have “absolute truth” and live it, just as MO are convinced of the same concerning their interpretation. Is one correct and the other incorrect? Is the truth always somewhere in between? Can we meet in the middle for the better, despite our differing views?”

      I don’t think this is usually true. Most orthodox folks recognize that Judaism is a diverse religion with different points of view. That’s why they accept each other as orthodox, respect that they may even follow halacha in a very different way, and will even pray with each other, etc. The Gemora is chock full of that sort of attitude.

      And thanks for all the great compliments and thoughts. A lot to think about!

      1. BirdieWaters Avatar

        “I don’t think this is usually true. Most orthodox folks recognize that
        Judaism is a diverse religion with different points of view.”

        Thanks for your input! I maintain that subjectivity causes our differing views and most that are in my circles maintain that they *are* following halacha in a traditional way, not a “different way”. Not to say that they would refuse to pray with anyone else, though some indeed would. I do know a handful of orthodox who do publicly state that they follow aspects of halacha in a different way, but that wasn’t what I was trying to get at.

        What I’m saying is that you can look at two groups who both genuinely, to their very core, believe that they are following halacha as it was intended, yet end up with vastly different lifestyles, some even choosing not to pray with the other, perhaps not even walk down the sidewalk with the other or congregate peaceably which, in their view, is wholly justified, even necessary. Is one wrong and the other right, or have they both interpreted the same materials subjectively?

  4. Kady Avatar

    I’m sure this has been already posed by others in another way — but how does this “someone can live with multiple truths” coexist with the idea that there is but one truth? I was under the impression that there is reality and everything else is not reality. While I love and agree with the post — I also think it can be easily misinterpreted (like any truth:) Maybe it is perhaps that there is an absolute truth — and our perception of that absolute truth or how we define it is imperfect, and thus defined in these variety of truths that you have brought up.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Because that one truth is infinite and unlimited, and we are limited and finite beings created in a limited and finite world, we have to access it in multiple ways. A big theme of this blog is accepting our own limitations and learning to work with them as opposed to against them.

      But I agree that it can be misinterpreted, which is why I plan to write more on this subject!

  5. Yehoishophot Oliver Avatar

    “Just as people’s faces don’t look alike, their minds are not alike.” Bamidbar Rabba, 21:2. And everyone has “their portion in Torah” (see preface to Tanya), but there is only one Torah of Truth. And if my opinion does not conform with what Hashem wrote in it–then the fault is in me.

  6. Tuvia Avatar

    The passion is compelling, but how do you square what you say with the Jewish idea that G-d gave us Torah, and this is something OJers brook no disagreement on?

    I think that Judaism is right in theory, but in fact, if you rolled back the clock, we would see that the Torah is a document formed over centuries, as is the mythology we have, like national revelation at Mt. Sinai. I also think that if we fast forward the clock, we’ll see that moshiach does not come – even at the deadline 6000 mark.

    What do you think?


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