The modern world is complex, challenging, and at times, a seemingly downright cold place. It is as if we are just a single droplet amongst a torrential downpour, unsure of where we’ll land or if our impact will be noticed. And as human beings, we are constantly seeking meaning, answers and a way to define our existence in this world.
Specifically in the realm of religion, many of us turn to an external source, an outside set of rules, boundaries and definitions to govern our daily lives and help us navigate the unknown stream that is life. Often, this leads to an orthodoxy and fundamentalism in the sense that there is one way, one answer—and if we only follow the rules, we will be rewarded in days to come. The world becomes black and white, and just like the story of genesis, the chaos of the world lifts to a scene of clarity.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Follow the rules, go this way, not that way, and revel in your reward that is the world to come. As a young person just beginning my own journey in this world, that route at first was very appealing, and I am not alone. Growing up through 9/11, economic recession and global change poses a harried existence ripe for existential crisis. Black and white, isn’t it great? For me, for a time, it was. But after deep challenges and much thought, I am coming to realize there is more to life, more to the world than just black and white.
Life is really lived in the gray areas. God, if you choose to believe in one, granted us feelings, conscience, memory and the ability to grapple with the complexities of human life. Rather than worrying about what may come and living life within the bounds of rigid constructions, we can fully immerse ourselves in every moment and truly experience the wonders that are nature, life and the sensations of being. We can be thoughtful and present, come what may.
Instead of the pallid black and white of orthodoxy and fundamentalism, living in the gray opens up a rainbow of colors, a plethora of experiences that allow us to fully experience the wonderment of being human. Gray is in fact a beautiful color.
Andy Cook, 24, has a longstanding interest in religion, spirituality, and civic engagement. Growing up in the Conservative Jewish tradition, Andy learned from an early age the importance of asking questions, knowing why one believes what they do, and placing importance on the work of improving our world.