Do you walk to school, or do you carry your lunch?” “Is it colder in the winter or in the mountains?” These are dualities, not dichotomies. Not so much “either/or” as “Yes, and …”

A true dichotomy is an either/or thing. Dead or alive. Black or white. But if you take a closer look, a seeming dichotomy often reveals a gray area between the two extremes. There’s a difference, for example, between young and old, but there’s generally no single birthday when a person goes from being young to being old. The categories of young and old blur into one another, sometimes gracefully, sometimes not.

Would-be dichotomies can also trip people up when they pair two ideas that seem at odds but are actually independent of one another. High ...

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