8 May 2013

Truth Lies in Both Extremes...

We stood beside each other, lightly grasping the hand rail and placed one leg each on the cement embankment that ran along the corridor of the sociology department. I turned to my professor and said to him, “truth lies in both extremes”.  He thought for a while, smiled, turned to face me and said, “I can see that…”. I stumbled to think of all those examples that had surprised me on my long bus rides when thoughts visit from who knows where.

My professor did not seem totally convinced, and my mind had gone blank. The august moment to impress my professor thus snatched from so congenial a setting; we ended our conversation on a few banal notes about student life.

But like the waves that lap at the shores, I continue to have those moments where it seems a hand passes over and suddenly one of those ‘truth lies in both extremes’ haunches lies before my mind’s eye again; and what I was preoccupied with fades for the moment. Many such moments have solidified a bedrock conviction within me: it’s not just black or white and it’s not about shades of gray. It’s a whole different colour when it comes to truth!  Black, white and gray are the ways we see it.

Paradox sounds a big, bully of a word. But perhaps if I say: #1 people change, people don’t change
#2 the world is better today, the world is worse off today
#3 Salvation is both God and us – He is the one that saves, we are the one that responds
#4 we love and hate the same people

 You would agree these statements hold truth. 

I was talking to an intelligent young man, an engineering PhD student who was struggling as his mind would heap arguments on one end of the see-saw and then counter those arguments with another set promptly seated on the opposite end. He was stuck in his logical arraignment. So I suggested the paradox – and that the answer he needed was to have courage to embrace both ends of the see-saw and recognize that living is risk-taking.

Yes, it would be very neat to have things one way or another. But that’s simply not reflective of reality. Truth calls us to us and Wisdom sings her song but we don’t hear. We would rather have it flat-lined, neatly pigeon-holed and yes, fixed. -- That’s okay with things.
 But once people get into the mix, is it enough to just fix things? 

Can the human heart be fixed? 

Can love be wrapped in a gift box? Can sorrow be explained? 

Can trouble not bring good? 

Can fortune not bring foreboding?

# The Cross was utter defeat and ultimate victory.

 And if you want to live, and in particular, to live as a Christian; 

then you are a person of this Cross.

Contradiction = statement containing elements that are logically disagree
Paradox = statement that at first seems contradictory but upon investigation prove true

So in fact, then, to live life is to come to terms with, accept and learn how to be skillful in paradoxical tensions. It has been said that maturity is about being able to accept tensions.

Children begin with black and white. It’s a needful first start. But we will be na├»ve and childish to stay there. The colour of maturity comes as we discover the amazing palette of life; in particular our own lives and how the colours come together. We must then shed our bi-chrome existence for what is deeper and truer.

# rest in labour, labour in recreation –

where we learn to work meaningfully trusting in the value of the work in itself and where we allow our recreation to be a genuine life-renewing process which requires work at examination, reflection, gathering memories and noting markers..

-which is a gift and possibility for the Christian who trusts in a God who designed us to labour and rest to a Spirit-led and enabled rhythm.

Will we one day transcend the way of paradox? If paradox is a result of the interleaving of dark and light; then I hope that when the curtain is finally fully parted; we would be past this tension. But then, what would be of all this life-training to think and live set us up for? I just fell prey to easy answers again!

Paradox calls us to slow, wait, listen, consider. We must resist quick answers, we need to contemplate, to trust. In the end, I don’t know if the way of paradox will persist; but how we have been touched and changed by it surely will.

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