• mbgarvey

Hummingbirds, Woodpeckers & the Importance of Nuance

I am not a hummingbird. I'm an all or nothing, pick a lane, more is better, hold my ground, stab the bugs outta this tree with my knife-face kind of person. Sometimes, it could be said that I lack the nuance of the silent ballet. Like all traits, resolve and intensity has both its benefits and its costs. But it could be so much better balanced with the wisdom and beauty of nuance.

Maybe I'm especially appreciative of nuance right now because so many talking points are quickly polarized. And complicated social, political and cultural issues are reduced to oversimplified absolutes, particularly when people's views don't align with each other. There are a great many woodpeckers out there right now, when we could benefit from seeing subtlety. Degree. Gray area. Nuance. Or maybe I'm finding nuance enviable because it's an anxious and challenging time and it's easier for me to gravitate to fixed views, even though it ultimately undermines how I want to engage others. If I'm not paying attention, it's an undesirable defense I lean on when I'm struggling. It can be false, wrong or judgmental.

Not too long ago my niece asked me what she thinks is most important to know going into college. My feedback was around inviting uncertainty: not going into new situations, discussions or debates with certitude. That she would be much more likely to learn new things, or understand different perspectives, if she could tolerate the gray areas. Not being positive that she knows the answer, or believing that all things are clearly black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. While it's easier to live in the space of absolutes, the gray area lends itself to learning, understanding, empathy and compassion.

We live in a world full of shades of gray, after all. Messy, imperfect and infinitely complex. It may be simpler to navigate it guided by absolutes and certainties. And to be sure, there are some moral absolutes that are black and white for each of us. Simpler is not necessarily better though. Seeking discernment rather than following rigid certainties, gives us an opportunity to dig deep - explore, pursue genuine understanding, interpret and seek new wisdom. It invites respectful debate, reflection and connection. Attending to nuance also allows us to embrace new knowledge, question wise people and their truths, and invite new discoveries. It keeps us from growing too comfortable with what we've learned before and helps us open ourselves to new lessons.

In a world full of woodpeckers, I am going to work on channeling the quieter and more discerning hummingbird. Perhaps more may be revealed to me in the silent ballet.

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