Two Kinds of People

Everything in our experience can be divided in two. After all, that most basic division explains why we have our world of experience in the first place: the primordial world-egg was split in half, or God created heaven and earth, or the Yin and Yang were distinguished — as you please. And this is why we rational animals are so naturally apt to say, “There are two kinds of people.”

And indeed there are:

Those who help us climb and those who hold us down.

Those from whom we learn and those who stifle learning.

Those from whom we gain maturity and those who would keep us as children.

Those who entice us to improve ourselves and those who tempt us out of our better natures.

Those who help us see what we are here for and those who only blind us to what we might have been.

Those who would bottle us and store us as a prize on their shelf and those who would teach us to infuse the world with our pigments.

Those who would pamper and comfort us to death and those who would challenge and sting us to life.

Those who would take pleasure in filling our silence with echoed distractions and those who would suffer pains to siphon all empty noise from our universe.

Those whose instinct is to be a friend when we might be useful to them but a stranger when they might be useful to us, and those whose instinct tends the opposite way.

Those who see us as the crowd sees us and respond as the crowd responds, and those who would stand beside us even if all mankind held us at a distance.

Those who crave a window into all our private rooms and those who would shed or draw blood to guard the path to our secret mountaintop.

Those who fill our foreground with straight lines and those who focus our vision on the distant circles.

Those who would enslave our time with chattering business and those who would liberate our eternity with quiet conversation.

In this table of opposites, the first item in each pair represents the great terrestrial weight of humanity, while the second is the rare wisp that may be noticed at all only by the highly sensitive. But as Aristotle says of the highest activity of the rational soul (contemplation), so we might also say with regard to our interactions with other souls:

We must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in power and worth surpass everything. 

Nicomachean Ethics, X.7 (W.D. Ross translation)

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