Life is paradox
March 4, 2012 by Bill
A balanced life demands that we hold in a creative tension what seem to be logical contradictions. We all live, hourly and daily, with the paradoxes that are a part of every decision, the paradoxes within us. You cannot read the biographies of any brilliant man or woman without realizing what a mass of contradictions and complex personalities they were, and yet still, the creativity that flowed from their lives left a wake far and wide that influenced all in its path. Churchill and Jefferson, Jung and Einstein, Bohr and O’Keeffe and on through them all. We hold the paradoxes of our lives in a balanced creative tension leading to a stable and productive existence.
Most of us live by some “system” of thought. It can be a philosophical system, an economic system, a theological system, a morality system, and to try to live by any one system, and make an absolute out of it, is to imprison the human spirit. Systems are always needing to be opened up to let out the soul and spirit of a unique human being. Because no ONE system has the handle for truth. Truth is always beyond. As Neils Bohr put it: “every truth has an opposite, a paradox, that is also a great truth.” Every “system” is only a fragment, a minute particle, a pebble on the cosmic beach of truth. And any one system contradicts another system, or negates another system, and other dimensions and other realities as well as other truths are always beyond. Systems of thought become strait jackets, binding us and imprisoning us as we try to make every idea and every part of life fit into our system, no matter how we have to twist it, bend it, pervert it, force it. We mutilate history, knowledge and facts to force them into our system of thought that we have turned into an absolute. For instance, there is no one system that can explain a human being. Not genetics, psychology, medicine, home values, or any other system of thought and theory and speculation, and no ONE system really tells you anything too important in any absolute way about the TOTAL YOU. Why? Because LIFE IS PARADOX.
And there lies the failures of “systems,” the failure of any ONE system of thought. We must live daily, continually balancing between logic and the failure of logic… judgment and mercy… foolishness and wisdom… personal and social considerations… sorrow and joy… rest and action… prudence and carelessness… humility and confidence… the contemporary and timeless… weakness and strength… despair and hope… the mind and the heart… the old and new… tension and peace… love and indifference… life and death, and the PARADOXES PROVIDE THE BALANCE. When we balance the paradoxes in our lives we discover happiness due to an acceptance of the paradoxes.
Once you try to make an absolute or an ethical principle out of one side of a paradox, you have taken a virtue and turned it into a vice.
Take MERCY for instance, certainly a virtue, but if mercy is not checked by justice than mercy becomes a gushy, mushy, sentimental thing. Take HUMILITY, a virtue I am sure, but if humility is not balanced by a strong and firm ego, a feeling of self respect and a sense of worth, then humility becomes a mealy-mouth thing, a crawling thing that no one can admire or respect. Take THRIFT, a virtue no doubt, but when a person accumulates wealth and yet moans about how he “cannot afford” things that would bring pleasure and happiness, he has taken a virtue and turned it into a vice.
As soon as you try to make an absolute out of any ethical principle, then you have taken a seeming virtue and transformed it into a vice.
Life is beyond LOGIC… SYSTEMS… ABSOLUTES… for LIFE IS PARADOX, and there is no ONE handle that you can turn on to pour out happiness for you.
I will be thinking in paradoxes… because life is.
I will be teaching in paradoxes… because life is.
I will be speaking in paradoxes… because life is.
I will be acting in paradoxes… because life is.
That giant of thought, Waldo Emerson, said it well and eloquently: “With consistency, a great and creative mind simply has nothing to do.”
As soon as we accept the fact that life is paradox, and that we live every hour of every day with paradoxes in a kind of creative tension, then we discover a new source of enormous energy that gives a significance to our days.