I was reading this morning the original dictation of what’s now Chapter 3 in the Text, and read these familiar words:
Certain fundamental concepts cannot be meaningfully understood in terms of co-existing polarities. It is impossible to conceive of light and darkness, or everything and nothing, as joint possibilities. They are all true or all false.
Then I came upon the line that in the FIP version reads this way: “It is essential that you realize your thinking will be erratic until a firm commitment to one or the other is made.” But here is how it read originally:
It is absolutely essential that you understand completely that behavior is erratic until a firm commitment to one or the other is made.
Notice the differences. Now it is absolutely essential that you understand completely. The sentence is way more emphatic. And of course the big difference is that originally it was about erratic behavior, not erratic thinking.
I was tired this morning while reading, but this line leapt out at me. Clearly, erratic behavior is a really big deal, according to this line. What is erratic behavior? In context, it means that one minute our behavior will reflect the light and the next minute it will reflect the darkness. If our behavior is constantly swinging back and forth between light and darkness, that’s clearly erratic.
I have to say that that definitely describes my behavior. It is swinging back and forth all the time, sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously. It is erratic. And while I obviously must prize the freedom to swing back and forth, just as clearly I find it distressing. As an analogy, it is very distressing to be around a person—say an alcoholic—whose behavior is swinging all over the map. One minute he hates you; the next minute he loves you. In the same way, it is probably even more distressing to be that person.
The point of the sentence is that it’s “absolutely essential” that we “understand completely” that this erratic behavior will persist until we make a “firm commitment” to the light. That’s the only way out. There’s no point in trying to make behavior consistent while we are split inside. As was pointed out in Chapter 2, trying to force behavioral consistency in the midst of inner conflict “entails great strain within the self.” And it can never truly be achieved.
So, the thought I was left with was this: If I can just make a firm commitment to the light on the inside, then my behavior will naturally become consistent, and the distress over its erratic nature will naturally be gone. Sounds like a good bargain.
Question: Do you identify with the idea of having erratic behavior? And if so, do you feel discomfort over it?