Paradox as an Agent of Change
Adapted from my forthcoming book to be published this summer: "A Wider Lens: How To See Your Life Differently." © 2018
Photo by Kenneth Silvestri
“One ought every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words”
It is my feeling that paradoxes are the essence of the “yin-yang” of life. Our world can be wonderful, and it can be ugly. I recently watched a late-night documentary on wild animals. A scene of cute cubs juxtaposed with predators vanquishing the offspring was hard to watch. Yet somehow nature’s vision seemed awesome in its unifying entirety. This view of nature in recent years, further underscored by Quantum Physics, has taught us that opposing views and actions, or paradoxes become moments of enlightenment.
With some perseverance these ever-present challenges can lead to an eventual understanding of one’s self: an exciting journey towards the constant striving for wholeness and the ensuing wisdom. For example, someone special in your life tells you how much they care about you, yet on another occasion, may say “I need my space” and ignore you. You can feel bad about yourself and get deeply stuck in an unenviable no-win situation or you can grow from hearing how others have dealt with similar hurts, create perspective and work through this situation. This person cares about me and needs space at times; I can understand that and not take it personally or put myself down. What a relief and avoidance of unnecessary stress that results in seeing things systemically or from a wider perspective.
In a sense, by accepting the inevitable quest to understand who you are, you have taken a profound and positive step towards the desire for completeness. This is not always easy, and life’s paradoxes can be much more extreme, such as, I have a great education but cannot find a job or I have this chronic ailment and my dreams may not be unfulfilled.
A paradox consists of statements or situations that may seem to contradict each other but, are different parts of a wider perspective.
Paradoxes are the soul of humor and the basis for finding one’s self emotionally and physically. Getting through a paradox is like avoiding or resolving a double bind, having a satori moment or a breath of enlightenment. Paradox points to a wider reality; it is both a mystery and a joy when it is celebrated. John Fox, poetry therapist and author writes in his book Poetic Medicine (New York: Tarcher Penguin, 2007), “Embracing paradox is a good strategy for tapping into the healing process of creativity. Intuition, generated by this dynamic embrace, enables us to see possibilities for growth.” (p.13).
Just as ignorance can misguide us, the grasping of one's potential through understanding the limitless possibilities available, can be the path to our celebration and enlightenment. Paradoxes are just another tool to make your life work the way you want it to. When we confront the mythological core of our paradoxes the result is that we can find the true meaningfulness of our lives.