The late Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald is known for saying, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
Fitzgerald is far from the only famous voice to speak to this observation. Those who’ve demonstrated a bent toward embracing complexity and ambiguity who don’t “run away from” dynamic tension or cognitive dissonance, are often the ones who make the largest contributions in companies, organizations, and society itself.
In our political times, however, such a skill is increasingly met with skepticism in favor of more black-and-white, emotional approaches that satisfy the perceptions of a group of people or stakeholders. The roles of a person’s self-awareness and intrinsic motivation to change and grow cannot be understated here. Someone who refuses to acknowledge blind spots or the opinions of those whom they don’t fully understand or want to understand, will remain rooted in the either-or, black-and-white interpretations.
This is not helpful and is often dangerous, because a critical mass of this type of interpretation and rigid thinking leads to laws, policies, and practices that disenfranchise large populations of individuals. The more simplistic the thinking, the more likely that many people will suffer.
We each owe it to ourselves, and to our fellow citizens, to continue to learn and stretch our thinking and awareness. Be a lifelong learner. It makes for a happier journey.