The Problem With Thinking Everything Has An Opposite

Spectrums are a problem. They exist neatly in between poles, caging in shades separated by the most minuscule differences, nonetheless restrained within boundaries.

I’m going to say something crazy.

Spectrums are a problem. As a society, we are so used to seeing in terms of binaries that we confine even the notion of spectrums to the area in between two opposing forces, with each “color” within the spectrum occupying a neat, distinct space.

The current understanding of spectrums provides alternatives to black and white in varying shades of gray.

That conception poses a problem for humans when we seek to transcend the limits of black and white in regards to race, gender, sexuality, and ideology. The attempt to escape labels dissolves into the attempt to replace us vs. them categorization by instead appealing to the idea of spectrums, where each entity can claim its rightful place — or rightful shade of gray — on the vast plane of grayness.

In any given field, spectrums require order, succession, or sequence. Those things require categorization. Categorization requires labels. Labels birth opposites: man opposes woman; liberal opposes conservative; theist opposes atheist; extrovert opposes introvert; thinker opposes doer; artist opposes scientist.

Interestingly, opposition, by definition, implies contradiction. Contradiction implies separation. How is man separate from woman? How is a liberal separate from a conservative, a theist from an atheist, and so on? One of those cannot be perceived without the other. And since our reality stems from our perception, one of those cannot exist without the other.

Think about it. If there were no men, there would be no women. If there was no such thing as a liberal, a conservative would not need a label to distinguish himself. Difference does not imply separation, nor does it necessitate contradiction. Not being the same does not mean you must be opposed.

Spectrums are a problem because they presuppose sequence, rely on polar bookends and demand singularity. For example, in mathematics, there’s something called an “infinite series,” a sequential system that adds infinite, successive terms in a particular fashion. But even infinite series grow from one end to the other, with each term differentiated from the prior and the next, nestled in its rank by order.

In physics, two invisible ends unite the band of colors revealed by passing light through a prism, creating a spectrum, yet even those ends become visible through photography.

But life is not a cartesian plane and humans are not points on a number line restricted to occupying a space between two extremes; nor, keeping in line with the above analogy, are they varying shades of clearly defined, easily distinguishable colors.

Humans are not singular. Humans are not finite.

They bleed into one another, indistinguishable. They defy categories, exist beyond dimensions, and transcend definition. They are neither good nor evil, black nor white, successes nor failures, right nor wrong. They just are. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Charlyn Wee

More From Thought Catalog