My friend Wanda said something smart to me on my podcast. She said: “people with high agency believe in multiple solutions.” They expect complexity and surprises. They are undeterred by seeming contradictions. Which reminded me of something smart my friend Andy said to me: “and not or.” Like if we’re making a plan for the weekend, I say either we go for a hike or we watch the 49ers play but Andy says, We go for a hike and we watch the 49ers play.
I appreciate his ambition and over the course of this agonizing election , his relentless reminders have been sinking in. I actually hear it in my head all the time — and not or, and not or.
My daughter is logical and irrational. My marriage is strong and needs tending. My mother is managing and declining.
My friend Joanne is a threatened minority as a lesbian and a powerful majority as a white woman. My old boss was a union rep and a pro lifer. The Osmonds, as you may recall, were a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.
Which maybe we should have known that in any given person, we could easily discover fear and forward motion nonetheless, sweeping shame and some areas of pride, callousness punctuated by altruism.
But the reptilian brain demands simplicity so we keep squinting and asking: which kind of person are you — the good kind or the bad kind?
Can a man wear a mask and fly a flag? Can a woman love Jesus Christ and want to marry her girlfriend? Can a person own a gun and want background checks? Can an immigrant advocate for stricter immigration laws? Can a veteran regret a war? Can a woman be excited about the ascendance of both Kamala Harris and Amy Coney Barrett? Can a military mother admire Colin Kaepernick? Absolutely.
Which means maybe either/or is a tease of an idea that never pans out. Maybe and is the only true thing.
How will we know? We will ask. We we ask and we will listen and we will learn that maybe Andy was right all along.
And not or.
And not or.