I’m off to
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“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-- Walt Whitman
I was told by a former teacher to always look for the contradictions – the paradoxes -- because it is there where I’ll find the truth. I had hard a hard time figuring that one out. How can one find truth, or even anything useful, in things that seemingly have no connection?
But we don’t have to look too closely to see that our existence is full of contradictions -- for every negative, there is a positive: night follows day, there is sadness and happiness, rain and sunshine. If you look still closer, you will observe that the web of life itself is made up of the interconnections and relationships between opposing forces. Like the tai chi symbol of yin yang, we all contain the rhythms reverberating from the play of dark and light, male and female, “good” and “bad,” awareness and ignorance.
I think about this web of connections when looking at and attempting to work with my character “defects.” Growth is optional in life. For many people, thinking about our existence, or even looking within, is something very alien – something to be avoided at all costs. Even those who profess to be “truth seekers” (or “tellers” LOL!) often fall short of real introspection because we’re too busy defending “who we are.” These are often the very same people who cut-and-paste deep quotes and who rail on about the defects of others.
My heart goes out to such people, because – if you look underneath their surface – there is an essential unhappiness. We all know the happy-go-lucky joker whose jokes and antics are barely disguised forms of aggression, for example. Or the overly critical or insensitive who tramples over people’s feelings under the guise of “truth” or “self-expression.” Yeah, it’s a bitch: when you deny life, it has a funny fuckin’ way of sneaking in through the back door. The baggage you bring will express itself through whatever form you consciously or unconsciously choose to express it.
Many of us live our lives shuffling back and forth between two identities that seem to conflict: the rational and the emotional. My rational self, for example, tells me I really shouldn’t act out on an impulse, while my emotional self urges me to say “fuck it!” Though I have witnessed many people deny this, we all experience these two conflicting identities, it’s how our mind/ brain- body is constructed.
The rational self says “I should,” and the emotional self says, “Even though I know I should, I can’t.” Today, I have a better grasp of this paradox – these conflicting urges within me, but I’m still working on it – it’s a process, not a race. It’s also about practice and not perfection. I have found that I’m a deeply flawed man – so flawed that, by necessity, I need to have a process in place that keeps me moving, at the very least, in a good orderly direction. My path is more of a zig-zag than a straight line, but that too is ok!
The point being is that I (we?) have to find a way to balance these two natures. Some people take the “rational” approach which often has the effect of leading to a denial of the emotional self. I see this all the time: people will say things like, “It doesn’t bother me,” contending that reason can be used to stifle feelings. However, shit always comes up, somehow – eventually denial is not a good coping mechanism no matter how logically you want to dress it up. Others take the opposite tact, and indulge their emotions. This is just the flip side of the denial coin.
Suffice it to say for now that science currently tells us that as a result of millions of years of evolution, each of us (well – most of us!! LOL!) is now the proud owner of an intelligence made up of four brains, each performing different functions.
This makes for many challenges and contradictions, but for one to live relatively happy, we need to find a way toward integration because that is the direction of all life: all life seeks to integrate fully somehow, it does this as surely as there is gravity and the sun sets and rises. Understanding how this all works can help many achieve some integration, some measure of comfortability and acceptance with what is the chaos and mass of contradictions that we all possess within.