We live in frightening, polarizing times. Put more bluntly, we live in a horribly incurious time: we are incurious about the experience of others, the contents of their skulls, and what motivates them. This incuriosity is stoked from a thousand directions, from social media to bloggers to news outlets, all preying on our baser, animal instincts.
Into this fray comes David Dark. In his book Life’s Too Short To Pretend Your Not Religious, he writes that nuance is sacred:
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 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 much and esteem 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. I happen to live for these openings, and I suspect I write “NUANCE” in the margins of research papers more than any other word. It could be that there’s no communion without it. I hasten to add that the communion I’m hoping for isn’t a retreat from the everyday or the realistic but a more profound engagement with it. This brings to mind Iris Murdoch’s definition of love: “Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real. Love, and so art and morals, is the discovery of reality.” The work of consciousness, we begin to understand, is never done.