Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Life is a bowl of Paradoxical Cherries

Life is a bowl of Paradoxical Cherries
By: Ken La Rive

I don’t know if it is like this for everybody, but the older I get the more amazed and overwhelmed I become at the ambiguity of life. What I see others do, like taking a stand, or finding an open-minded answer, just seems to be getting harder and harder with abe. Learning an answer to a question is sometimes so elusive, that one question just seems to pose another! It takes a lot of hard work to understand both sides to an argument, and I may have found a shortcut. There may be a better way toward awareness, and a solution to every problem.

Understanding “The Paradox” can help us better cope in a world of countless directions and ideas. Finding the paradox in a situation can help us more understand another’s viewpoint, while giving us an opportunity to glimpse the opposing side.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, a paradox means: “A seemingly contradictory statement that may none-the-less be true.” For instance, the paradox: standing is more tiring then walking, might at first glance seem wrong. Reality is a judgement call, based not only on life’s experiences, but how we are indoctrinated to perceive ourselves in relation to the world. The thought: you are what you think you are, is also true when we perceive the world. The world is so grand, so vast, that what we choose to focus on becomes our reality. Though these may dictate a bit of what reality is, it may sometimes, in truth, be totally wrong. Not only is there a language barrier to contend with here in Scotland, but there is a certain way a typical American thinks and reacts that may sometimes be misunderstood, and visa versa. One thing conversation has taught me in my months in the North Sea: there may just possibly be several rights, and several wrongs. I know that this statement may seem essentially self-contradictory, but then we have to realize that what we hold as reality may differ from another by just a few degrees. Though some of these degrees may seem slight, they could be so profound as to be a catalyst for war.

While traveling, I come in contact with a very wide variety of philosophies and religions. I find this very exciting, not only for the opportunity to further my understanding, but to help put my own life into perspective. Seems to be an overall reluctance to study the thoughts of other cultures, and even rarer to accept and embrace a new idea, as most people everywhere think they have been taught the one true meaning of life. This is normal, I suppose, as there is certainly strength in a culture that works together. However, the more rigid and intolerant a culture is, the more easily it is dominated and controlled by fanatical religious models, or totalitarian regimes. An individual who accepts without question, is usually coerced to be that way, probably by some type of fear, and will have a harder time realizing some paradoxes. Understanding paradox is a key to understanding how our perceptual minds work, and in the process, help us to be better people, with wider comprehension, more insightfulness, and most of all, tolerance.

Let’s look at it with a story. Say you are a police officer, and have just purchased a brand new and powerful apple red convertible sports car. You are very proud of this toy, and feel like it expresses your true nature. It is polished, fueled, and ready to rock for a Sunday drive.

You are traveling at a safe and moderate speed, down a familiar winding road where you can get the feel of its handling ability. Your focus is on the reflection of the trees off the gleaming hood, the roar of the perfectly tuned engine as you shift through the gears, the feel of the road, and the wind that plays in your hair. It is truly a happy moment.

Suddenly from around the curve comes an old rusty car out of control. The woman spins her wheel in an attempt to regain the blacktop, and nearly sideswipes you while she passes. You see the blur of her face. She is wide eyed in what you perceive to be indignation, and she yells: “Pig!” Not a good word for a policeman. A flash of adrenaline instantly rushes through you, a combination of the fear of collision, but also to her blatant response. Quickly you yell back, “Cow!”

You are glad she missed, but also glad that she heard your comeback. You think this at the same moment you run into a pig.

Just knowing that paradox exists in our minds is a good step. Though there will always be some irreconcilable differences in people and culture, perhaps, with a little understanding, we can be more tolerant of these differences, and the lines that separate us will be more indistinct. Annihilation of a religion or race of people is not an option, understanding is. Our country is strong because we have embraced and absorbed these cultural differences, and though there are some who would argue this, we have made all world cultures part of our collective whole. I know of no other country where tolerance for the difference in others is so accepted. We are lucky to have been born here, but it is the understanding of the paradox that makes it so.

Finally, I would like to give you a paradox that is very well understood here in Scotland, but is a bit over my head… “You have the paradox of a Celt being the smooth Oxonian.” Understanding the difference between a Celt and an Oxonian comes from being a viable part of the culture. Study may help, but the subtle differences between the two may only come from actually being born into it. Just knowing that we don’t see the whole picture is half of understanding it.

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