As a young man I remember thinking that a paradox was some arcane mental trick played by philosophers and physicists that had little to do with me.
Today, I’d say pretty much the opposite: that paradox, with the little word “and,” is perhaps the only way we can hold together the sheer complexity of what it means to be alive, aware and fully human.
In the spirit of “and” we offer two pieces on paradox below, with this reflection:
What if today you noticed where you can replace a sense of “either/or” thinking with “and.” How might it give you a new sense of peace and possibility?
P.S. You can develop your capacity to hold paradox at a Courage & Renewal program.
Two Pieces on Paradox
Chutzpah and Humility
PARKER PALMER: In Healing the Heart of Democracy I talk about five habits of the heart. But when I give talks about it, I say, “If five is too many for you to hold onto, you really only need two. You need chutzpah and humility.”
You need the chutzpah to know that you have a voice worth speaking, and things worth saying. And you need the humility to know that it’s vital to listen, because you may not have it right at all, or only a very partial grasp on the truth. So I think it’s in holding these paradoxes that we start to sort things out.
There’s so much of this life that we’re all trying to live that’s just not about either/or, even though we’ve been trained to think in “binary code.” … I mean that in the … metaphorical sense of that term. [Life is] both/and – I breathe in and I breathe out. It would be really dangerous for me to say, “I think I’m basically a breathing-out kind of guy, so that’s what I’m going to devote my life to.”
I am an individual with a voice. I am also embedded in a community on which I’m highly dependent, from which I came, and to which I will return. And I include the community of the natural world in that. And I need both the chutzpah and the humility to be there fully, to be there now, and to be there in a life-giving way.
The Shining Word “And”
“And” teaches us to say yes
“And” allows us to be both-and
“And” keeps us from either-or
“And” teaches us to be patient and long-suffering
“And” is willing to wait for insight and integration
“And” keeps us from dualistic thinking
“And” does not divide the field of the moment
“And” helps us to live in the always imperfect now
“And” keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
“And” demands that our contemplation become action
“And” insists that our action is also contemplative
“And” heals our racism, sexism, heterosexism, and classism
“And” keeps us from the false choice of liberal or conservative
“And” allows us to critique both sides of things
“And” allows us to enjoy both sides of things
“And” is far beyond anyone nation or political party
“And” helps us face and accept our own dark side
“And” allows us to ask for forgiveness and to apologize
“And” is the mystery of paradox in all things
“And” is the way of mercy
“And” makes daily, practical love possible
“And” does not trust love if it is not also justice
“And” does not trust justice if it is not also love
“And” is far beyond my religion versus your religion
“And” allows us to be both distinct and yet united
“And” is the very Mystery of Trinity
From: Richard Rohr, The Naked Now
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