Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Green vs. blue

I love personality types.  Some schemes are better than others, and none of them are all that rigorous, but I find it helps me to understand better that some people are coming from a completely different place than I am.

So when a friend shared this with me, I loved it.  Basically, the five colors in Magic: The Gathering can stand for five personality types, or rather priorities.  The way I could summarize it would be something like: White prioritizes order and community; Red independence and action; Black self-interest and ambition; Green balance and nature.  But really, you have to read the post.

Anyway, I read that and saw immediately that in my heart of hearts, I'm green.  I feel on a deep level that everything is so complex and interconnected that you will never understand it, you just have to accept it.  Nature always feels like the right answer to me -- to say, "If you meddle, you're likely to make things worse; stick with what's natural."  I hate taking medicines and I hate processed food.  I would love to go live in the woods like the guy in My Side of the Mountain.

Green has its flaws.  If nature is your highest goal, human ends are going to take a backseat.  Sometimes the most natural thing in the world is death, and humans don't want to die (that, too, is natural).  We are part of nature, but every part of nature isn't just in balance with every other part, it's also, in a way, at war with every other part.  You can't just choose to stand aloof from that struggle, simply because you see it is all part of a whole.  You can't help being part of it, complete with all your needs and desires: the desire to live, to protect your loved ones, to avoid suffering.  Anything else would be a little inhuman.

For the past several years I've been becoming more and more nuanced in my views, realizing that many things that are true are in tension with other true things.  For instance, non-aggression can sometimes lead to change; but that is in tension with another truth, that in some cases nothing will get better without fighting.  And I finally started applying this balance and nuance to my belief in balance itself.  Even Green isn't good by itself.  It has to be balanced with other things.  And what I tend to balance Green with is Blue.

Blue is kind of the opposite of Green.  Blue people are scientists and alchemists and wizards.  It's all about the perfectability of the world -- through understanding it.  The sort of person who breaks a thing to see what is inside.  (Who has, Gandalf reminds us, left the path of wisdom.)  But this mad tinkering is, at its heart, compassionate and optimistic.  It says: there is no reason the way things are is the way they must be; we must improve them for human ends.

Blue on its own is kind of horrifying to me.  Too heedless!  Blue scientists spray the world with DDT first, and find out it kills birds after.  Split the atom first, find out about radiation after.  You can actually destroy the planet that way.  And all with noble ends!

But Blue and Green together temper each other's flaws.  A blue-green person says: Yes, there is a deeper balance to everything; everything is more complicated than you think; it is much easier to wreck the whole thing than to improve it; seek to understand before you try to improve.  But on the other hand, the balance that currently exists may not be the best of all possible situations, especially for our own ends, and one might theoretically create a slightly better balance.

For instance: disease is entirely natural.  We can medicate a disease, but when we do so, there can be unwanted effects.  Antibiotics can create superbugs.  On the other hand, what if we carefully harnessed those forces already within the body to train them to fight the germ more effectively?  That way we could somewhat tilt the balance of the fight toward humans without throwing it off altogether.  I'm talking, of course, about vaccines.  Vaccines are very blue-green.  Of course the more "green" you are the more suspicious and careful you'd be, but at some point you'd have to see that survival is more important than a perfectly natural, untampered immune system.

I feel that most people tilt way too hard toward one or the other extreme.  Too green, and you reject science without even giving it a chance, because you're too suspicious of possible harm to existing systems.  Too blue, and you'll fail to recognize the power of a complex system.  Blue wants to control and perfect everything; Green refuses to control anything because everything is already what it was always supposed to be.

I can apply this to about everything.  Economics: Hayek is green (the economy is too complicated! just leave it alone!) and Keynes is blue (here's a math equation which will let us end depressions!).  Foreign policy: the Green approach is isolationism, even if a genocide is happening next door; but the policy that reigns is usually a particularly stupid kind of Blue that imagines we can force international situations into a favorable balance by getting involved in everything.  Parenting: I started off very Green (just let the kids take the lead!) and have tempered it with some Blue (my kids don't actually know what is good for them sometimes).  Too much Blue would be assuming the right inputs from me would automatically result in good behavior.

I'm going to close with two "litanies" referenced in the original post, both of when I find helpful when it comes to seeking truth.  First is the Litany of Tarski, a very "blue" mantra:

If something is true,
I desire to believe that it is true.
If it is not true,
I desire to believe that it is not true.
Let me not become attached to beliefs I may not want.

Next, the Litany of Gendlin, which was described as green:

What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn't make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn't make it go away.
And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn't there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.

Both Blue and Green agree on this point: one must understand the world and accept the truth about it.  Which is something I always try to do.  Yes, it's deeply complex, and you're never going to understand it completely.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't seek understanding -- balanced with humble appreciation of the mysteries you won't ever understand.


Activity Superstore Discount Codes said...

I really love the way you have denoted each color for each kind of situation. They completely match to the kinda situation you are specifically referring them.

midori said...

In Constantinople, back when it was the capital of the world, Green and Blue were the colors of the two major sporting factions. The rivalry was intense enough that led to riots and massacres.

In Japan, they make no distinction between the colors blue and green. They have only one word for the two of them and as a result their traffic lights are often blue instead of green.

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