Trust your contradictions

I’m on a roll with this theme: exploring beautiful ways to find challenges entirely rewarding. (Small admission: it’s sort of the theme of my latest book project).

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I covered the value of loneliness last week and hunting down difficulty to have a good life the week before. Now contradiction. 

Again, Maria Popova at BrainPickings alerted me to a read I’d probably not find on my own. She pulled out some thoughts from Alfred Kazin’s Journal, which I’m now pulling out (the poor guy’s work has been shredded!).

Kazin writes about how the whole self-improvment industry has caused us to see life as something to fix. And contradictions as something to somehow fight/mesh together/solve. But why? Why do go against the grain of who we are…which is a bundle of contradictions. What if we saw life’s contradictions as more than just inevitable (to be accepted), but as good? Helpful?

This is the bit I liked:

Trust to the contradictions and see them all. Never annul one force to give supremacy to another. The contradiction itself is the reality in all its manifoldness. Man from his vantage point can see reality only in contradictions. And the more faithful he is to his perception of the contradiction, the more he is open to what there is for him to know. “Harmony” as an absolute good is for the gods, not for man.

He argues that when we face the above we don’t just find peace, we grow, we’re energised.

“(A) contradiction that is faced leads to true knowledge… Contradictions are on the surface, the symbols of deeper and more fertile forces that can unleash the most marvellous energy when they are embraced. 

I find contradictions elusive, distressingly so. I’m highly strung and I seek order as a way to navigate the intensity in my being a little better. This is what a lot of highly strung people do. We try to clump things together, like a parent swopping through and bundling toys in piles. I make generalisations, sweeping statements. I see patterns. I count. 

But I’ve been reflecting on the above rant a bit over the past few days. Much of my distress comes from the fact I can’t create the order. That it fails. And that it’s exhausting. The idea of not ordering, but facing the disorder – even seeking it out – really does alleviate the bulk of the anxiety.

Bloody self-help. It sent me on a path in the early nineties and I’ve suffered ever since!

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