And Nor Or

a subject of conversation in the neighborhood project

illustration by GAGI @ the nantucket project I copyright 2019

I have a friend named Andy whose philosophy of life comes down to this: and not or. Like when making plans for a weekend — I say either we go to the beach orwatch the 49ers play but Andy says we hit the beach AND watch the second half of the game. I appreciate his ambition and lately, his relentless reminders have been sinking in. I actually hear it in my head — and not or, and not or — all the time…

My daughters are logical and irrational.

My marriage is strong and needs work.

My mother is managing and declining.

My friend Joanne is a threatened minority as a lesbian and a powerful majority as a white woman.

My old boss was a union rep and a pro-lifer.

The Osmonds, as you may recall, were a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.

So maybe we should have known that in any given person we could easily discover fear and forward motion nonetheless, sweeping shame and some areas of pride, callousness punctuated by altruism.

But the reptilian brain demands simplicity so we keep squinting and asking: what are you?

Can a person really feel loved and unlovable? Can we be getting it done and falling apart? A rule breaker and a good child?

Maybe. Maybe either/or is a tease of an idea that never pans out. Maybe and is the only true thing.


The Neighborhood Project welcomes you to join us in small group monthly conversations in living rooms around the country.

Kelly is author of four New York Times bestsellers and one of the pioneers of The Neighborhood Project movement.