Not too long ago, a new grocery store opened around the corner from my house. It is one of those big, fancy grocery stores. You know, the stores where you can buy groceries, a car battery, 16 feet of rope, flowers for the front yard, a pair of pliers, a blowtorch, and the obligatory tic tacs or package of gum at the checkout. It also has an associated gas station and even a built in police department station. My initial thought was “THIS IS GREAT!” I enjoyed happy thoughts of shopping in the neighborhood, knowing I would be closer to shopping bliss without having to travel the typical lengths I’ve had to in the past. Then reality hit me; in order to take advantage of all of these new perks I would have to leave my old grocery store. Bummer…big bummer. I was extremely familiar with the old grocery store. I knew a large number of employees. I knew where all of the items were housed. I knew how to read the price labels to identify all of the “hidden deals.” It was like being at home. But this new store was so inviting; almost calling me saying “Mr. Extemporaneous, my bread is just as good as theirs, and you can buy the butter and a new knife as well.” ARGH…so tough, and I kept asking myself “what is the right thing to do?”
As I asked myself that question I began to think about the fundamental concept of right and wrong and quickly began to realize that, for me, it was not a simple binary question. Furthermore, I began to think about how the concept of right and wrong aren’t as binary as I once thought. These items are based on two things: value system and condition/circumstance.
The value system is the “easier” of the two to process items through and frankly, in my opinion, is the North star. Our views on topics such as integrity, humility, simplicity, work ethic, loyalty, and faith help shape the lens in which we view things and becomes the constant in the equation. These are the items that form the paradigm in which we think and process information and the concept of right and wrong have to be viewed through that value system. It’s the condition/circumstance that provides the variable in the equation. This difference in condition/circumstance is what causes people with similar value systems to arrive at totally different conclusions on a similar matter.
Let’s take stealing as an example. If a man steals a loaf of bread from a store in order to provide food for his family, is he right or wrong? Presuming integrity is a core value that you have then the first response to that question may quickly lean towards the “wrong” camp. But what if that man is you and you are at your limit? What if you have played by the rules and done everything “right” yet, you still find yourself in that place where you are forced to face the decision between stealing that bread or literal death of an individual in your care; a spouse or child? Has the circumstance changed the opinion? Is it still wrong?
Going further, let’s transpose the construct of the thief onto my grocery store dilemma. The grocery store didn’t do anything wrong by opening but they are in effect taking customers from other grocery stores to shop at their new “Wonderland”. Are they stealing? Furthermore, and potentially more important, what about my involvement in the matter? Am I doing something wrong by patronizing the new store at the expense of the old store? Am I enabling the “stealing” that some would accuse the new grocery store of committing? Although the new “Wonderland” may be providing valuable jobs and services to the community, are those benefits worth the perceived damage being done to the local neighborhood store?
The AHA moment arises — this is how it is possible for two people to look at the exact same set of facts and come to totally different conclusions, and both of them be 100% right and 100% wrong. Wrong and right do not change; the set of beliefs we filter the facts through is what evolves.
After giving all of this some thought I was still at a crossroads, which ironically is a place I find myself frequently when making decisions. One side of me said “Mr. Extemporaneous, you are thinking WAY too hard. You need to buy groceries, not become a philosopher or psychologist. Understanding and rationalizing all of this is not required but eating is. MAKE A CHOICE!!!”. The other side of me said, “I get it, but my ability to understand and rationalize this decision is how I find peace in the final decision, thus I must determine how to make the right decision?” I knew that doing something solely based on desire, like, dislike, comfort or convenience wasn’t the answer as that would be too easy. The decision has to be based on some set of criteria; a set of principles or rules that, if violated, would ultimately trigger the appropriate response.
Thus, I made the criteria, ran the question through them, and came out with an answer. I’ll let you know one day how it worked out, but I know for sure that the concept of Binary has forever changed for me.
Today’s featured image is that of the Historic Log Cabin in Palmer Park in good old Detroit City USA. Quite a few people that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the years have a very inaccurate view of Detroit City. Media and public perception of Detroit City are quite a stretch from the truth and I’ve had several people even mention their surprise that any good and nice areas even exist in the city of Detroit. I find it unfortunate that one of the grand hallmark cities of this country can have such a double edged perception as people either love it or hate it, embrace it or fear it, truly a “binary myth” of sorts. It is out of this myth, perception, and even disregard that brands such as Detroit Hustles Harder, Detroit vs. Everybody, and Chryslers Imported from Detroit campaigns took root. They aren’t just sayings or catchy slogans. They are a lifestyle to lifelong Detroiters. Hopefully, many of my readers will get a chance to experience The D…it will be worth your time and will more than likely change your perception of both the city and the “binary myth” surrounding it.