‘Middle of the road’. ‘Stuck in the middle’. ‘Caught in the middle’. For most people, the word ‘middle’ does not conjure up any excitement. Middle school, middle class, middle management, mid-range, and whatever fits that description – for most people it just translates into not-there-yet. Surely the ‘middle’ is not something to aspire to. Up or down, left or right – anything but the middle! The ‘middle’ is so vanilla, so boring, so mediocre.
But how wrong can we be?
Never was there a time as good as this one to rediscover the importance and the wisdom of seeking the middle ground. The middle ground seems to have given way to the extremes: you are either black or white, politically left or right. There is no tolerance for fence-sitters and middle-of-the-road citizens. No, you have to choose a side, take a stand, dig yourself in, and defend your view as if your life depended on it, even if you hurt others. We just need to watch the news or read the newspapers to see how that approach is serving us at the moment. It borders on craziness. With fanatic zeal, we point fingers at each other and call each other names because we are so convinced and so certain that we are right and that the others are wrong. It is these claims of rightness and wrongness that tear nations, societies and communities apart.
We need a space, a place we can step back into, and that is what the middle ground can offer us. It allows us to compromise, concede, arbitrate, collaborate, conciliate, negotiate, settle, bargain, make a deal, and agree. But nothing of that will happen as long as we dig in our heels because we are so convinced that we are right and the others are wrong. We need to tread carefully when speaking about right and wrong. There is no such thing. We all know this to be true from our own experience. When we look back at our lives, we can all identify and remember certain things we felt very strongly about, and that we fiercely pushed against at the time, because we felt it was wrong. Once we find ourselves in this mode of self-righteousness, there are no limits to our behaviour and we often hurt others in the process of taking a stand. But now, with the wisdom of hindsight, we may feel bad, even embarrassed, because we can’t believe what we did and how strongly we felt about it. However, we should not beat ourselves up about our behaviour in the past; instead, we should realize and acknowledge that it is simply because our perceptions have changed. We think differently about it now. Part of the maturing process is to seek the middle ground from where we can see both sides, and to have the wisdom to realize that we don’t necessarily have to take sides, because we know from our own experience that what is right today could be wrong tomorrow, and vice versa. So, by standing firm in the middle, we can become the observer, rather than being swept away by the views and opinions of others. From that solid place, we can then take action for the greater good of all.
We need to tread carefully in these volatile times. Either or, right and wrong, are not our only options. There is a far better solution, there is a field between the two where we can meet as suggested by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Let’s find that field in every relationship we are in. Let’s meet each other there and allow our soul to take us beyond the things of this world and then, perhaps for the first time, we may see and hear each other because we start speaking from the heart, which so fluently speaks the love language of the soul.
Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin