By Brennan Urbi
Winter 2021 Issue
I had to look up how to spell grey. Is it Gray or Grey? Seriously, I didn’t know how to spell it. Wanna know what I found when I popped the question into Google? That in true gray fashion, BOTH Gray and Grey are true.
I believe in grey space. The perfect blending of opposites. White & Black fusing together to make a calm intriguing mystery. Not only do I believe in it, I live in it. Both by choice and by circumstance.
Fate put me in this gray space long before I had the chance to oppose its ambiguity. My mother was born in the US and my father in the Philippines. My dad immigrated to the states when he was a kid. Years later he met my mom, they fell in love, got married, and I assume you know where this is going. Poof! The stork shows up and delivers ME, a caramel lookin’ kid. A shaken, not stirred cocktail of my parents opposing genetic makeup. Put in less flowery terms I’m bi-racial. Mixed. Hapa. A third culture kid. Grey. Gray. Since birth I have always been in this grey space. But it wasn’t until recently that I started to believe in it. Well, it wasn’t so much believing in gray as it was understanding the truth in opposites.
People say the truth is black and white, but I don’t think it’s that simple. If you look hard enough and think about it long enough nothing is simply black OR white. Here’s how I like to think about it: Break it down into the atom of a moment. The smallest, most finite piece. Find the truth there. It is white. That is the truth of the moment. Great, now move to the next moment, look at that piece. It is black. It is also true. Do this a million more times until you have a matrix looking code of Black and White dots
B B BB B
B B W B W
BW B W W WW BW BB W
B B W
B B W
BWB W B
WW B W BWBB
B WW B WB
BWB WWB WWBB
We are trained to search for patterns. When we examine this mess of moments, what we find seems inconsistent. Chunks of indecision and contradictory truths that pendulum between our ideas of right and wrong, good and bad. But zoom out and see the B&W dots blur together, mixing into a wash of grey. Think pointillism.
All of these moments are allowed to be true. The black is as true as the white. The fear is as true as the bravery. The harm is as true as the healing. It’s all true. And it is all within us. It seems that you have a whole bunch of conflicting truths because we believe that people are only allowed to be one thing. But we all know that “bad people” do some amazing things and “good people” do some terrible things. This idea of conflicting actions within people is frustrating, our brain doesn’t like to accept this inconsistency. We are trying so hard to slap a label and a timestamp to other people’s actions and ideas that we lose sight of the balance that exists within us.
I spent so much time debating this balance in other people before I realized that I must start with myself. At first I was scared to accept my Asian side. Growing up in Iowa, white was always the majority. As a kid it’s easy to blend in, you are a kind of chameleon, taking on the qualities of the kids around you. So doing the white kid things like loving ranch and football and Olive garden and Target felt good, it felt right, it was all I was taught.
I didn’t have much understanding of what it meant to be Filipino other than I ate Lumpia and Pancit and instead of Grandpa and Grandma I use Lolo and Lola. As I got older I realized that was an entire half of me that I didn’t really understand, so I became more curious. I was ready to understand my Filipino side. In fact sometimes I would just say that I was Asian, trying on the label as if I was trying on a new hat. How does it feel to wear this hat? How do people look at me differently or treat me differently? Now with this hat on and an ever changing and advancing society, I found that claiming my Filipino half felt pretty good. So good that I contemplated getting [F I L] tattooed on my neck (which still isn’t entirely out of the question). Until I realized that deep down, I have no clue what it means to truly be Filipino. I’ve never even been to the Philippines and even if I had I still can’t speak the language. I mean, it takes a lifetime of living somewhere to actually understand the tradition and customs of a country. And as much as I hated to admit it to myself, I speak English. I have spent my entire life as an American. I love ranch. So only wearing only the FIL hat would be completely rejecting 50% of who I am.
I realized that there is no point in hiding or rejecting my opposites, because whether I liked it or not I am just as American as I am Filipino. I can not accept my Filipino without also accepting my American. Just like you can’t accept the Good without the Bad. The Moon without the Sun. This is the truth I learned to believe, a dule truth. This is the space I reside in. That I have the privilege to see. I am made up of opposing bits. Scattered pieces of truth that seem conflicting or confusing, but by allowing all of my pieces to be true, I started to believe in the grey. This allowed me to understand and accept the contradictions of the world.
I challenge you to not seek out black/white, right/wrong, light/dark, republican/democrat, man/woman, sun/moon, gay/straight, happy/sad, but strive to understand both. You are more than one true moment, you are a blend of a series of conflicting moments. You are always allowed to be better in the next moment, no matter how permanent the last moment seems. As long as you are seeking the truth in moments you are gray. It is in understanding that we gain perspective, connection, empathy. You don’t have to agree with the opposite, nor should you, but you should understand the truth of it. By understanding the Black and the White you pull them towards each other. They fuse, untie, connect. For what else are we here to do other than connect?
Brennan Urbi is a Chicago based Actor, Writer, Director who believes that with honest writing, vulnerable performances and a heavy dose of empathy, we can make the ordinary seem magical.