Thursday, March 1, 2007


Photographers (my mindset) have a special affinity for grays. That is, photographers raised in the black and white tradition abhor pictures with too much contrast because they lack in detail. We never really meant black and white as the only tones. In fact, when there is excessive contrast we take the appropriate measures to lower the contrast (add a fill light, reduce the development, etc.).

Yes and no are parallel in many ways to black and white. I'm not sure if yes should always be associated with one or the other. In the question, should we be in Iraq? (one of my proposed topics for the day), yes may be black (we fight until one side is dead) and no may be white (we leave, the smoke clears, and the sun shines brightly).

One of the problems with yes or no is that it polarizes two people in a debate. One says yes, and another says no, and neither acknowledges that gray (somewhat, maybe, sometimes, often, etc.) is probably a much better answer. Often I'm asked a "yes/no" question, and I give a maybe answer. I'll say that "I'll look into that" or "we'll see" or even "that's a good idea." Then the requester will go away thinking the answer was yes, and all sorts of confusion and disappointment may ensue.

Will John Edwards be a good candidate for the Republicans? He'd probably be better that the dumber of my two dogs, and he'd probably be worse than an ideal candidate that we might imagine. So why don't we ask "how good will he be" or "how bad"? Photographers speak of high key (predominately white) and low key (predominately black) images. Suppose the debate became more about the tones of gray rather than about black or white?

Even such seemingly absolutes like marriage are continuums. We know of people who are "married" to the extent that they hold a license and occasionally go out to dinner. And there are others you can not imagine life without the other person and desire a simultaneous death should the other decease. When we get down to our knees, perhaps we should be asking, "how much will you marry me?" Marriages all end up as a range of tones (perhaps high or low key), though we often don't discuss "what kind of marriage" from the start.

I believe that compromise and continuums may not be good friends. Compromise comes from black and white and often comes with disappointment. It is not always the win win that it is touted to be. Instead of saying, should I work today? should we say, "how much should I work today?"

Is this now the end of this defense of the gray scale? Maybe, somewhat, close, yes, for now.

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Xiushan said, "What can you do about the world?" Dizang said, "What do you call the world?"