Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shades of Gray

“...[A]lways remember that no one is completely bad. We're all a mixture. In each of us there's a little of the 'good guy' and a little of the 'bad guy.'" 

--Cifford B Hicks from his children's book The Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald 

This quote is from a book that was published in 1960. It was mine as a child and I recently read it with my boys. They loved it! And so did I. It was fun and funny, adventurous and mysterious, wacky and just a little bit unbelievable. In other words, the perfect book for two boys under ten. 

What I loved about it can best be summed up in this quote. It wasn't all black and white as many kids' books are, there were shades of gray. Shades of gray in Alvin's relationship with his sister and with his parents, shades of gray in his friendship with his best friend Shoie, and shades of gray even in the "bad guy" in the story. 

It's something that has always bothered me about kids' books, movies and TV shows - and which I have always admired about the truly great adult entertainment (Dexter, The West Wing, The Wire) - there are no shades of gray. It's Good Guys versus Bad Guys, Us versus Them, The Force versus the Dark Side.

But life is just not like that. Life is lived in shades of gray. And there is good and bad inside of all of us. So much of what causes us pain, I believe, is this idea that we can be all one or the other. Most of us choose to try and be good, but we can't be good all the time. We can't be perfect, nor should we try. 

We are all doing the best we can and the best we can is somewhere between black and white, good and bad, The Force and The Dark Side. It's in the shades of gray.

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