I was born to understand the gift of “and.” It is an idea that changes a generation; holds back the king tide of othering in all its forms; expands an already proffered collaboration; fosters cooperation between, within, and across species; and serves the good of the whole while encouraging bold, unique expression.

“Both/and,” while a conceptual improvement on “either/or,” remains problematic because it emphasizes two. Ultimately, both/and may create further separation and dyadic bonding against all others, even though its intended goal is deepening interpersonal connection.

The pull of the dyadic bond is powerful, and sociologist Georg Simmel considered the dyad the strongest and most enduring of all social relationships. Whether “either you or me” or “both you and me,” these constructs still constrain what is possible: they put a coda on belonging and on otherwise infinite inclusion. That is why cultures spend so much energy controlling a married couple to ensure they stay accountable to the broader community, the common good.

The value and limits of individuation…

There is an important value to individuation, a value that is not to be underestimated and that ultimately enriches the whole. In the expression of the unique, the whole comes to know and appreciate itself fully. It is my personal belief that this process of venturing out and returning to the whole is endless – quite literally infinite. It seems to me that our goal in life – perhaps the goal of life – is to permit unique self-expression without diminishing anything that is not part of that expression. Without othering.

Unlike either/or and both/and, “And…” has no such flaws. It does not limit, compare, exclude, end. It allows unlimited expansion without ever going beyond All That Is. It adds configurations to the already possible, to the already-present-but-unexpressed in other examples of personal and shared consciousness. How many words can you make out of seven letters? How many worlds can you make out of trillions of components, only some of which are materialized in any particular moment, while others remain in the domain of the potential?

“And” is a way of saying “Oh, here’s one more! I hadn’t thought of that until just this moment! “

The power of and

And: nothing that existed before is diminished or destroyed.

And: Nothing is taken away from anything or anyone else: no Peter is robbed to pay Paul.

And: No loss of space is required to make more of – anything!

Ampersand Lights in Backyard at Night. Photo by dosecreative

And is contributive
And is limitless
And permits a continually expanding world and worldview
And is open-ended; just like the ampersand, just like the musical clef, the sound on which all creation travels

Infinity is implicit in the shape of the ampersand: instead of a closed loop, however, its ends are open and welcoming to the as-yet unexpressed, to surprise, whether positive, negative, or neutral.

Today was full of surprises for me. The specific content does not matter, but the act of individuated self-expression does matter, whether that expression is mine or another’s. Perhaps you, too, will play with surprise and contribute to the undifferentiated whole in your own unique way. See how far you can go with “And…” How far can you go, adding without subtracting anything from anyone else? What a playful, wonderful challenge!


Published by Helen L. Stewart PhD

Endlessly curious, writer, speaker, blogger, intuitive, author, consultant. Retired university academic administrator and faculty member. Citizen of the world. Traveler. Human being. Perhaps in reverse order.

4 thoughts on “Ampersand…

  1. What a wonderful word….AND &&&&& luv the beautiful ampersand symbol. I played with it, turning it in all directions while looking at it. The one on the blue background looks like a person sitting with an offering…. Just perfect!!! Thank you & much love, Helen for your offering of words and ideas and inclusion.

    1. Your kind words mean so much to me, Kitty. It is wonderful to keep the connection going these many years! I hope you are continuing to thrive and to offer YOUR beauty to the world.

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