Staying with Contradiction

Stay with the contradiction. If you stay, you will see that there is always something more than two opposing truths. The whole truth always includes a third part, which is the reconciliation.

Jacob Needleman

Much of life is the act of balancing several demands; and often to do so is to hold opposing demands in contradiction.

If it helps, imagine a rubber band. When pulled, the tension gives the rubber band a structure. As the angle of the pull changes, so does the structure. From oval we may get a rectangle or a sphere; the evolving nature of the rubber band can be paralleled to the different demands that come our way. And the tautness of the rubber itself can be paralleled to the tension of holding all these demands in harmony.

After all that is what life is; we live in a state of tension between values associated with our individuality and values associated with conformity or society.

I think at several points in our lives we all struggle with staying with the contradiction. In part, I believe this is because we’ve been taught that ‘tension’ always equals stress, and stress should be minimized. Thus we do all that we can to remove ourselves from states of tension.

Today, I’d like to challenge the assumption that ‘tension’ always equals stress.

Obviously, if the opposing demands in our life are unhealthy, or make us feel miserable as we pursue them, then stress (in it’s most negative connotation) is inevitable. And yet, when we have two things that we care equally about… say your relationship with significant others and your own values, if these two equally important forces come into conflict, then I don’t think I would consider pursuing their reconciliation as “stress”.

Rather, this is exactly what I believe balancing is all about; finding the strength to stay with contradiction, thus creating the space for reconciliation and harmony.

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