As human beings, we don’t like contradiction, not one bit. We would much rather have a black and white answer, A or B, than have to wrestle with the uncertainty, unpredictability, and ultimate incomprehensibility of a world that says A, and B, and everything in between.
For those who learn to accept and even embrace contradiction, however, a whole new perspective awaits. Here are three areas of your life in which you can embrace contradiction to reach a more nuanced, compassionate and even contented view of the world.
Media coverage on current affairs is extremely black and white. People want sensation, and commentators tend to the extremes of opinion to provide it. Almost invariably, however, the issues at hand are far too complex to reach any definite conclusion.
Take Britain’s departure from the European Union as an example. Depending on whom you ask, it seems that Brexit is either the worst thing that has happened to the UK in decades, or else just what the country needed. The reality, in my opinion, is both, neither, and everything in between.
Brexit is good and it is bad – and, actually, we don’t really know yet. There’s a famous thought experiment in quantum theory known as Schrödinger’s cat. In that experiment, the cat is both alive and dead – you won’t know until you open the box. It sums up my thoughts on Brexit precisely.
As you begin to view political events as issues of contradiction and unpredictability, notice how you become more nuanced and open minded in your position as a result.
If you’re looking for contradiction, you will find it in spades in every one of us. We can be one person at one moment and a very different one at another. Kind and then mean. Loving and then hurtful. Considerate and then selfish. Happy and then sad. What is this, this Jekyll and Hyde within us?
If you ask me, it’s simply part and parcel of being a human being. Just as the world is a mixture of light and shade, so too are we an infinitely complex and, at times, contradictory, blend of light and dark.
When we take this understanding into our interactions with people, we learn the value of compassion. We learn not to take single characteristics or actions to make conclusions about a person as a whole. To accept the light and the dark in people, the good sides and the bad. And, when all is said and done, enjoy better, more compassionate relationships.
People who cannot accept contradiction in their existence are miserable, tortured people. The person who cannot live without life having a meaning. The person who cannot function within society unless that society takes the exact form he desires. People who must succeed to act. Know they are right to choose.
An individual who accepts contradiction accepts the absurdity and inherent contradiction of life, and is freed by it. There doesn’t have to be a meaning to life for your life to have meaning. You can take issue with the game, but play it to the best of your ability. Act in the acceptance you might fail. Do what you think is right in the full knowledge that you might be wrong.
Lean into the contradiction, that ever present duality of things, and you make your peace with life. Not a life that is predictable, or understood, but a life that is yours, yours to live to its fullest extent.
And that, gentlemen, in a nutshell, is why you absolutely need contradiction in your life.
Cambridge graduate. Writer and thinker. Life enthusiast.