Can We Ever Get It Right?

Naomi Joy Smith
Oct 17, 2018 · 8 min read

That vague liminal ground between a terrifying tangle of polarities.


In this piece I am exploring the oft-neglected need for balance between multiple factors and how to continue anyway; revering the dark side of every good thing, saluting feedback systems and demanding our conscious evolutionary effort by including consent in the process of manifesting.
This was written therapeutically during a brief dip into the nihilistic lake;
I’m curious to catch some resonance with other beings out there.


M.C. Escher — Tessellations

The creation and destruction of everything.

The addition and the removal.

The work/life balance.

And my favourite: the local community, or the global opportunity?

We no longer live in a world of either/or; if you want it, someone is busting those advertising dollars trying to show you it’s possible.

The question is no longer whether we want to settle down in the country homestead or take up long term tenancy in an urban apartment; we can rent, cooperatively own, or wwoof in either one at any time.

No longer is our choice about what is or isn’t possible in the confines of paradox; we now have to hold the paradox and be real fucking adults about what we prioritize. And it’s exponentially exhausting. Without a well functioning inner & outer ecosystem, these stimulating experiences can drain a lot out of you.

The tao teaches us that every good thing, every thought or deed or action or product which ‘improves’ our lives also births its equal and opposite ‘bad thing’. You cannot have creation without destruction, simplicity without chaos, winners without losers.

In a simple exchange, we can see active and passive interactions which create new life through their encounters. This is a simple interaction.
What happens when many forces of gravity are present around many beings who have the capacity to switch between positive and negative, active and passive? Complexity.

When we talk about both/and, it’s often in the context of creating win-win situations, which all sound very well and noble. However, if we dare to peer further down the black hole, we’ll see as clear as night that a win-win situation may just manifest a lose-lose, too — and we are just as responsible for this, if we want to discuss winning at all.

But ‘bad’, in lieu of a perfect language (better yet, some kind of non-verbal telepathic transmission) must firmly remain within apostrophes and quotation marks. Our experience, teaching us that such phenomenons within the human memory should be reduced, removed or avoided at all costs, comes from a linear mindset which we have not yet as a species overcome.

It’s that goddamn fear of death thing again.

We are all afraid of being hurt. Take, for example, the heartbreak. Have you ever met anyone, at whatever point along the sociopathic spectrum, who entered a relationship with the intention of getting dumped right at the moment where they chose to commit everything to the other?

How about another demonstration; Shrödinger’s cat?
To keep both possibilities alive by refusing to choose will eventually kill the cat through starvation, madness or suffocation. Oh, dear.

Everything in our common sense (that is, whatever’s left of it), protects against such a defeat from occurring.
Sometimes our protective force can paralyse us.
It can inhibit our authenticity, it can prevent us from articulating or knowing what we truly need, from reaching the depth required to sustain a healthy relationship in the first place. (Or a healthy cat).

There are countless examples of toxic relationships which could have benefitted from ending much earlier than they did, sometimes waiting as long as the death of one member to finally liberate the other (who can hardly move on at such a point). How on earth do we balance and prioritize to optimize for health, rather than a grotesquely infantile approach of ‘avoiding pain’?

Within any field of physical health; martial arts, weightlifting, pilates —
we understand the need for sacrifice in order to achieve the higher outcome. But how about the scale of the interpersonal? Within relationship, community, organizations?
How far away is the dream of trusting an elected representative to make choices which seem detrimental to us at the time, yet are the best outcome overall? Especially when we are already so sensitive to blame games: they who make the unpopular but wise move hardly look good to the audience of the electors.

Here’s where we run into trouble with democracy (or, the evolutionary quest for superorganism behaviour through some form of collective self-governance).

As valuable as every voice is, and as important as it is that all possible types and flavours of us naked apes are given the chance to be heard, considered, to be cared for, to be given the chance to express their soul’s purpose and genuinely included within a society; we also cannot trade wisdom for popularity among the masses.

Taking the good with the bad is an intense and ongoing work. The balance of both/and, particularly in an economy which offers everything and threatens the removal of all known comforts in the unfolding of climate breakdown, nuclear threats and that general looming apocalypse has left many of us a little numb with analysis paralysis and/or choice overload.

We are overactively engaged in things which have become redundant, and dangerously passive in activities which influence where we will end up.

Because of our paralysis, we remain in what is perceived to be a comfort zone; the no-choice, it’ll work itself out, just get through today mindset. The false sense of security of staying where you are.

“I would say that the most utopian thought is to believe that we could carry on as we are without the types of consequences that none of us want to see happen”.
-Alnoor Ladha on The Sutra Show


Alternatively you might be more like me, jumping into everything, looking for the pressure points which need a little attention then getting lost in the tangles of interconnectivity with little focus on any one in particular, an ambiguous philiosopho-paradigma-phenomena of potential.

We know we need to choose, but there is no easily determined path between multiple meaningful possibilities.

Whatever the choice being weighed, resisting choice can leave us starving for someone to just tell us what to do already.
And who on earth could be trusted? Not the church! Not the head office! Certainly not the overqualified nor the unemployed!


Chill. You managed this far, there’s a good chance you can manage still. Perhaps it only takes a little bit of gentle reminding: you got this.

Your whole being allows you to move between states, while somehow remaining stable enough to stay Here… oscillating between multiple layers of polarities, breathing, swaying, giving and taking. You are the constant being which observes itself through every context, every transformation.

But to move or live at all requires choice. Just because you can, doesn’t infer that you should. You are fed information both conscious and subconsciously, from many parts of your being, which is weighed up and experimented with: not always getting it right. Observing. Adjusting.

Trust what you are to do its thing but
be willing to let go of patterns which feel wrong.

Balance requires tuning in: placing our attentive prioritization between the Now and the What’s To Come (& how that matters Now).
It requires acceptance regardless of understanding, the best of our rationality as well as our intuition. It’s a real cop out to dismiss anything as wrong, insane or corrupt; it’s all a part of us and as real a symptom as any paralysis is.

We earth creatures have a multidimensional waste problem. A waste of human potential, a waste of resources, and literal rubbish coming out of metaphorical cow tits. If we are afraid of the ‘bad’, ‘yuck’, ‘nasty’ and all, how on earth can we work toward healing the natural cycles which support life on this planet?

I’m not asking you to go digging in the sewers for your spiritual salvation.

What I am asking is that we grow a pair and not be afraid to do things which seem opposing. It is harmful to maintain a fixed identity as either/or.

Instead, we can practice a little more compassion and tolerance for views that we don’t automatically accept — respecting diversity.
We can get better at saying, and hearing, ‘no’.
We can courageously accept the time to say ‘yes’.
We can start to heal our traumas around walls and separation, our traumas around vulnerability and ambiguity, our traumas around uniformity as an immature emanation of harmony.
We can recognize that too much chaos requires discernment, while too little openness leads to the well-known zombie infection.

I need the maybes and I need the clear boundaries, both.

I need to feel whole and I need to grow, both.

I need to re-define the sacred cosmic sound ‘OK’!

Rather than using OK to indicate complacency (i.e. an unhealthy abundance of contentment), OK means to welcome the bad with the good; so long as we can continue to work with it, to adapt, and especially to listen to those who will be most affected. #consent.

I want our species to acknowledge complexity, without letting our unchecked insecurity work toward manufacturing a yes.
I want us to be OK with what doesn’t give us automatic gratification so long as we believe the outcome will take us closer to where we all want to go.

Sure, there will always be missteps, extremes, stagnation, tangles.
A little too hot or a little too cold, a little too hard or a little too easy.
Too far or not far enough, our feedback systems indicating the need for changes and challenges through our frustration or despair.
But this, too, shall pass. So long as we’re willing to embrace it all.

At the most personal level, we need to be practicing this wisdom;
for democracy, for equal rights, for better communities and toward a fuller expression of our being (in other words, being more awesome).

Do your thing, but do all of your thing; no halfway stalling.

We can get it right… but there will always be something left.

“Is that ok with you?”


Naomi Joy Smith (she/they) is a New Zealand-born nomad deeply researching complex living systems through the lens of social permaculture; including authentic connection, self development, invisible structures, organisational management, community building, movement weaving and kundalini yoga.

Twitter/Instagram: phoresced
Reach out to collaborate in the name of regenerative cultural design!

Naomi Joy Smith

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Casually researching wisdom & generosity. Aunty. Geek. I’m into weaving, tea, poetry, music, patterns & social evolution. What questions are living within you?

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