Going through junk stored in my parents’ attic to me is almost like time traveling. Every piece of paper, photo, old electronics, etc. takes me back to my younger years, and reminds me of my past states of mind. During my last trip home, I stumbled upon a box full of notebooks from my sophomore year in college. One notebook was on my favorite class, Logic Design. It was the class where I learned logic operators in computing and eventually circuit design.
As I was flipping through my notes of 1s and 0s and occasional doodles, one page in particular caught my attention. It was a page on the logic operator Exclusive Or (XOR). If you’re not familiar with computer science terms, you may be wondering what this term means. What is Exclusive Or?
|p||q||xor||Exclusive Or is a logical connective combining two statements, truth values, or formulas P and Q in such a way that the outcome is true if either P or Q (but not both P and Q) is true.|
In plain English, XOR = dichotomy, or false dichotomy. In even plainer English, black OR white.
What was so special about this page in the notebook? Nothing. However, seeing the XOR truth table reminded me of recent events and some of my personal experiences.
“You’re either with us, or against us.”
Are you a black or white type of thinker? Whether we admit it or not, at one point or another, we get caught up in it.
Those who know me well can attest that I’m a pretty logical and mellow person. To get me upset about anything is harder than milking a cat. But I wasn’t always like this. I spent years engaged in flame wars dating back in the BBS days, then eventually on usenet, web forums and blogs. I argued to win, and it felt good to win. I didn’t care what the others had to say, they were wrong. I was very much the same in real life too.
It wasn’t until recent years that my personality got an overhaul. The change was attributed partly to life humbling experiences such as becoming a father, or maturity as I grew older (although I still believe in the saying, “aging is inevitable, maturity is optional”). Booger.
The true moment of clarity came to me, when I studied Lao Zi’s book Tao Te Ching. Through reading the chapters, I learned about objective thinking, the key of balance, and most importantly, humility.
The world we live in is not black or white. Why do we get caught up in dichotomic thinking at times?
The U.S. presidential election is finally over. I, along with many others, are looking forward to the rebuilding of America. During the past months of election coverage, I saw some of the best and some of the worst in people. Media coverage was full of extremism from both sides. When one person holds black or white views on things, it hurts him or her as an individual. Furthermore, when people think that way collectively, it divides a nation.
Our country has increasingly becoming argumentative as a society. People are being judged, not only by their views, but by their associations or labels. If you’re a conservative you must be a religious hillbilly, if you’re a liberal then you’re automatically a weed smoking hippie. I hardly saw any intelligent, unbiased debates that were focused on the essence of the issues, instead of personal, political or commercial gains. Some of the most ignorant things I heard came out of the mouths of those who appeared to be most self-righteous.
None of us are perfect. That’s why it’s important to constantly improve ourselves, to broaden our horizons. Humility comes from humbleness.