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  • Divya Chandroth

Grey Matters



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Does something called grey thinking exist? What do you think?


Usually, people believe anything in this world is binary. It can be either black or white, good or bad, rational or irrational. But is it like that? For example, in nature, we think in two extremes - night or day, sunset or sunrise. But is there no afternoon or twilight between these extremes?


We are used to thinking in black or white since childhood. A child learns that touching electric plugs is not good, whereas staying away from them is good. Limiting choices for kids whose brains are still developing is okay to avoid confusing the child. But in complex life situations, there are more than two choices. Also, when we think in binary, that is, black or white, it is easier to form an opinion. It takes less time to think when we have two options. But does this lead to polarized thinking? Viewing something as good or bad forms deep-seated views, which are difficult to shake off. Bad experiences make us more rigid to situations and averse to risks. We tend to become more opinionated with time. When faced with challenges, this leads to difficulty in reaching a middle ground.


In the case of grey thinking, we are open to varying ideas and change. This helps in bringing about a broader mindset with flexibility. I have struggled with binary choices. But with time, I have realized that life is neither white nor black, it is grey. It is not categorizing something as good or the opposite of it as bad. It can vary, and there can be more than one opinion. Thinking in grey makes us more tolerant of people and the world.


In history and mythology, we are conditioned to believe that someone is either good or bad. For example, in Ramayana, one of the greatest epics written by Valmiki, Lord Ram is the ideal man with the most desirable virtues, whereas Ravana is the true evil king. But is that true? Lord Ram was an ideal brother, son, and ruler whom most people revered because of his good behavior and dutifulness. But when Sita was rescued from Ravana’s Sri Lanka and reunited with Ram, she was questioned about her loyalty and put to the fire test. Even after passing the fire test, she was banished from home when pregnant. Ravana, on the other hand, was one of the most brilliant rulers of all time and a great scholar. His greatest vice was kidnapping Sita, the wife of Lord Ram. Even after imprisoning Sita in his kingdom, he never mistreated her. Is Lord Ram the hero and Ravan the anti-hero? They are not simply black and white characters as we are always used to believing, they have grey in them, bounded by their own inadequacies or difficulty in judgment.


To think in grey is to question long-term-held opinions and traditionalist views of thinking on everything. We should always be open to more ideas. We need to watch out for our inner way of thinking when we form opinions or get judgmental about anything or anyone. Thinking in extremes, on the other hand, makes us more rigid. Opening ourselves to new ideas becomes difficult. It increases stress and sets our expectations high, thus making us more vulnerable to unreal expectations from ourselves and others.


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