When I was a kid, during WWII, I could never figure out how any country could declare itself neutral; no one can be neutral in a fight if someone is determined to beat the crap out of you unless you're willing to have the crap beat out of you. Even Gandhi wasn't neutral in his ideals—he just didn't believe in fighting back. I know now that Sweden and Switzerland remained neutral only because it was in the combatants' best interests to let them remain neutral.
On a personal level, few of us are neutral on very many issues; the closer they come to our personal interests, the less neutral we become. Yet I remain neutral to many of the things to which others are not. I apply the “how much does it affect me, personally,” rule. My tendency is to be neutral to 99.9 percent of my fellow humans, to like almost everyone with whom I have contact unless and until I am given good reason not to, and to actively dislike very few. I can in fact honestly say I have actively hated two people I have known personally (and, on thinking of them after 30+ years, still do).
I think it's fairly safe to say I go through life largely in a state of neutral when it comes to most of what goes on around me. Since no one but me pays my rent or has the ability to disrupt my day-to-day life, I see little point in letting what other people do or say have too much influence over me. This is not to say I am not interested in others and their lives, but I by and large give them credit for being able to live their lives without interference or guidance from me. (Not that I do not give out excellent advice when asked, of course.) I do not see much point in engaging in discussions of the flaws and foibles of others.
The ability to see both sides of any given issue—or to realize that nothing is all black or all white—clearly lends itself to neutrality. So much that goes on in the world is totally beyond my control I find it better, though not always easy, to ignore them. There are, of course, things and people—mostly politicians, bigots, and those utterly devoid of scruples and morals—which spark intensely negative emotions within me. I do not like those feelings and am not proud of them, but must acknowledge them. And having so said, I find it interesting to realize that I do not apply those emotions to anyone I know personally—probably because the minute I begin to sense a negative reaction to someone, I simply do not associate with them.
If emotions can be described as colors, neutrality is unquestionably a soft grey. And while it may not nearly as intense as the flame red of anger or the ice-blue of outright rejection, it provides a level of comfort that intensity does not. The danger in always choosing grey over the more intense colors is that I suspect that limbo is grey.
My mind seems to have only two gears—out-of-control speed and neutral. Either my thoughts are racing so fast it's nearly impossible to catch and hold on to any one of them, or they just sit there in the Lotus position, refusing to respond to any stimulus. This is particularly true when I really need to think of something—like the subject for my next blog.
I believe that time is a major factor in neutrality—experiencing something for the first time tends to produce the strongest emotion, and the more often one encounters or experiences the same thing, the more commonplace—the more grey—it becomes. It sometimes bothers me that I have become neutral to so many thing I once found exciting, though it is, I believe, a general human condition. The older one gets, the fewer things one encounters for the first time. How many TV shows can you think of that you started out loving, only to have that initial enthusiasm gradually wane over time. Familiarity may not breed contempt, but it often does breed neutrality.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which will shortly also be available as an audiobook.