When I was in high school, my best subjects were the sciences … biology, chemistry and physics came easy.  Second was English and math was a weak third, perhaps due to a lack of effort.   We won’t talk about history, which I hated.   When I went to Stevens Institute of Technology as a freshman and roomed with my friend Charlie, one of the top math students from high school, an interesting thing happened.   Along came calculus and specifically the mathematical operation known as Integration.   For some reason, I understood it and Charlie didn’t.   That was the beginning of a successful career in the more theoretical aspects of engineering.    In my junior year I transferred to the University of Connecticut and ended up pledging Beta Sigma Gamma, the first inter-racial fraternity on campus.   Even though my mother had raised me to respect all races, living with a population that was nearly 50% African-American opened my eyes.   I got to hear stories of fraternity brothers who were hassled on their way to Florida because they were wearing ROTC officer’s uniforms … the Alabama locals couldn’t accept that a black man could be an officer … and I got to sit in a bull session about Malcolm X as the only white man in the room.   I learned first hand about another kind of Integration.

In the last twenty years of my life, I’ve tried to undertake a third sort Integration, that of accepting all aspects of myself.  I began to realize I wasn’t an integrated person when a number of crises in my life showed me that my insides didn’t match my outsides.    I was not the person I liked to believe I was or the person I tried to show to others.   In part, this was true because I had never examined my own life … my beliefs about myself were based on what I was taught.   But there were also significant aspects of myself that I didn’t acknowledge.  I was a house divided … on one side, those parts of myself I liked or accepted and on the other side, the unaccepted, walled off from my consciousness  by denial or rationalization.

Learning who I am … through self-help books, some counseling, friends or not-friends who acted as mirrors, and introspection (not to mention a searching and fearless moral inventory) … has not always been easy.   I had to learn the difference between what I believed and what I was taught to believe.  I had to look past my perception of myself to the man I really was … and to do that, I needed to accept that I had a dark side.    That dark side wasn’t some devil out there tempting me to do wrong.   It was me.   Accepting a dark side didn’t mean I kept it around forever or even liked it.   But until I accepted my defects of character, I couldn’t begin the process of changing them.   The way I see it, being an integrated person is a step on the way to being a better person.  What do you think?

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3 Comments on “Integration”

  1. “But until I accepted my defects of character, I couldn’t begin the process of changing them.”

    How does one accept their defects of character?

  2. Oh! Okay. I think I can work with that! I’m certainly able to admit my shortcomings. Now comes the hard part. Changing them!

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