Each day the media delivers a preponderance of news that is discordant to my values. I think of the polarization of gotcha politics; the insidious and blatant strains of racism; the persecutions of righteous fanaticism, secular and religious; the degradation of domestic violence; the myriad manifestations of a self-absorbed culture.

Trying to understand I turn first to what motivates us as human beings. Historically it has been to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. At the core of each is fear, fear of being hurt or not being worthy. Fear of not being hurt is certainly basic to our survival, but once we are safe does fear suffice? On the other hand, can the constant quest for pleasure supplant our fear of never being good enough?

Viktor Frankl and more recently Daniel Pink identify other motivators: the search for meaning (purpose), autonomy (independence) and mastery (control and the pursuit of excellence). For many of us having purpose in our lives and being able to control our destiny are inspirational motivators.

Whatever drives us as human beings, the code words for me are this: do we look at life as either/or, or do we embrace it as both/and? The former view says that one of is right and the other wrong; for one to win the other must lose. Both/and acknowledges that each of us holds a truth and that we are tethered; “winning” accrues benefit to both.

Embracing both/and is to appreciate paradox, the reality that two apparently contradictory assertions can be true at the same time. Both/and also recognizes nuance, the subtle layers of meaning that reveal a richer reality. Whether or not we are able to arrive as a species, the path to a higher consciousness follows the route of both/and.