Yin and Yang, The Lesser of Two Evils, and the Relativity of Our Decisions

“Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil”-Jerry Garcia

Jerry’s words strike a chord with people as much today as they did when he said them and as they will for future generations to come. Everyone is faced with making decisions; there are some as life-changing as choosing a profession or as little as picking a brand at the grocery store. We deliberate within ourselves what the “right” decision is and how it will affect us and others. For example, we may ask ourselves was this product humanely produced, or ask is this decision for my career ethical? Taking this into account, what Jerry’s quote does not encompass is that every decision you make will always have a little bit of evil in it. It all comes down to how much evil you can tolerate.

There is no such thing as 100% good or %100 evil; they are just arbitrary terms in the English language to describe the relativity of our actions. The Eastern philosophy of yin and yang brings wisdom to this reality. What yin and yang are about is the unity of opposites, and how their interconnectedness works together to supplement each other. Without one, the other cannot exist. Our friend Butters illustrates this:

If we really think about it, good and evil are terms that have been cultivated throughout time by different religions shaping the exegesis of each word. What is “good” to one philosophy is could be “evil” in another. For example, the Gnostic tradition holds the belief that the serpent in the Garden of Eden liberated humanity out of its ignorance from a jealous God who was full of hubris. This interpretation is the opposite of mainstream Judeo-Christian doctrine that we all learned about in religious school which teaches the reverse to be true. Whatever the case, the meaning of good and evil are relative to our own personal morals and values that have been carved by exterior influences and interior rationale.

What Jerry attempted to communicate in his quote is that you do not have to settle with options that violate your moral compass. When we are given two choices, there is usually a third option hidden between the lines. It could be to walk away altogether or discover a third option that you did not even know existed.

The perfect example for this that we can all relate to is this year’s presidential election. The candidates for the two major parties, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have had the highest unfavorable ratings of all time; many view one as a corrupt insider and the other as a dangerous demagogue. But this year, there are other options. Jill Stein is a proper alternative for disenfranchised Sanders supporters while Gary Johnson appeals to fiscally conservative and socially liberal voters who have had enough of the system.

Yet you must always remember there is no such thing as a perfect candidate. If you do your research, you may find that Johnson and Stein will have positions you disagree with. It is up to you to decide whether to look past those policy disagreements and support their vision for America’s future. In an election year where people will be voting against the other candidate than actually for someone they believe in, it could finally be the time to give Stein and Johnson a serious look.

I gave the example of this year’s presidential election because it is a topic that I am familiar with, but there are more complicated instances of good and evil working together. Their realizations may be uncomfortable to think about, but they are still there. It is ultimately up to us individually to decide whether to accept the little bit of evil or take a stand against it.