I think the hardest question to answer is what do you believe in. I don’t know man, all of it, I believe in everything & nothing.
To which the response usually is, “at the same time?”
Life is in it’s concept, philosophy, and practicality, is a paradox.
Paradoxes are sets of two seemingly opposing ideas that are true at the same time. They defy intuition, logic and are often pretty absurd. They exist in every facet of life (from what I’ve observed) from mathematical to visual (MC ESCHER). The fact that opposites can exist simultaneously together at all is intrinsically paradoxical when you think about it.
The Paradox of Dualism and Opposites
Here’s a funny thing about monistic philosophy (the idea that EVERYTHING is just one thing), any philosophy that denies dualism is inherently dualistic itself, since it’s still claiming a separation of opposites –duality vs. monism (two things vs. one thing.) The versus mentality is a divisive mentality; nature versus man, black versus white, us verses them, monism versus dualism. But a crazy thing (& by crazy I mean mind bending) about the universe being monistic, is that simultaneously it is just one unified substance & separated into a world of opposites (maya- illusion), because it contains everything (or rather it IS everything). The idea that everything is one would therefore exclude opposites & that would mean that opposites don’t exist at all.
Opposites (the world of duality) do exist on one level, but all opposites will eventually blend together, reconcile. Paradox is a force of thought and language, that makes us take into account that two opposite things are in alignment, are really a whole. Opposites aren’t really real. They are true and false, meaningful and meaningless. Examples can be found in our language, the artsy oxymoron for instance, freezer burn, or in the art & design principle of negative and positive space. In order for form to exist there has to be space for it to exist in, and space itself becomes form. All extremes blend into each other. (For instance, though the exact ideals may be opposing, is there any real difference in behavior between extreme liberals and extreme conservatives?)
Nihilists and deists rejoice! You are both right, you are two sides of the same coin. Particles and waves.
“Let’s be definite, let’s have rigor and precision, even though we are studying poetry.’ But the poets will reply: ‘We are for goo, and you people are all dry bones, rattling in the wind. What you need is essential juices, and therefore more goo is necessary to liven you up.’ But when we want to know what goo is, and examine it carefully, we eventually turn up with a structure, the molecular or atomic composition of goo! On the other hand, when we try to examine the structure itself to study the substance of bones, we inevitably come up with something gooey. When the microscope focus is clear, you have structure. But when you reach beyond the focus and what confronts you is vague and amorphous, you have goo because you cannot attain clarity. Structure and goo are essential limits of human thought” – Alan Watts
Opposites need each other because they ARE each other. Would life exist without death? We have to eat to survive, which means we must kill to eat. Even a salad was once alive. & could you have light without the proverbial darkness? Or know what true electrifying happiness is without feeling the bleak, torrential depths of depression? Opposites are contradictory but upon closer examination– aren’t they exactly the same? That sameness is the deeper meaning.
The metaphor of the Paradox of Choice
In the relatively successful western society I find myself in-unlimited choice is considered freedom. The more, infinitely unlimited options you have, the better & happier you will be. But having so many choices usually has the opposite effect of being crippling. Like standing in the toothbrush aisle feeling overwhelmed by the pretty ridiculous amount of variations, brand variations, electric or manual, bristle feel, handle feel, super special features like tongue scrapers and those scrubby rubber circles, I imagine that we, as consumers, are expected to comparison shop, but I suspect that in reality we end up grabbing the first one we see or the cheapest or brightest in coloring. Not what I typically feel is freeing. More paralyzing, anxious & needless. Everything, even something so famously considered as beautiful as unlimited choice has a negative side and a positive side.
“…an old Chinese farmer lost his best stallion one day and his neighbor came around to express his regrets, but the farmer just said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The next day the stallion returned bringing with him 3 wild mares. The neighbor rushed back to celebrate with the farmer, but the old farmer simply said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The following day, the farmer’s son fell from one of the wild mares while trying to break her in and broke his arm and injured his leg. The neighbor came by to check on the son and give his condolences, but the old farmer just said, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.” The next day the army came to the farm to conscript the farmer’s son for the war, but found him invalid and left him with his father. The neighbor thought to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad.”
Eastern mystics and philosophers have long understood that the appearance of opposites are just that, appearances. What seems good, what seems cold, what seems hard & solid & full of matter is just a bunch of empty space. & we are nothing & everything at all times & no time.
“In one sense, each of us is an intriguing, intricately unique individual, justifiably proud of & in love with our own personal story. In another sense, we are all one body, descended from the same primordial mother and made of identical stuff-the calcium in all our bones and the iron in all our blood originally forged in a red giant star that died billions of years ago.” –Rob Breszny
Consider the weird concept of quantum nonlocality which says two particles can exist in two places at the same time. Particles are both particles & waves simultaneously & they might not exist at all unless we’re looking at the them. This says a lot about the role of the observer & observed: reality isn’t real at all unless it’s being observed & that is quite a paradox. (See also: Schrödinger’s Cat, or don’t see him, who knows.) Reality according to both quantum physics & mysticism is a shared hallucination.
So on the one hand, the universe exists. It is everything and everywhere– “within us & without us.” Un-nameable & yet named as best we can. & on the other hand, the universe doesn’t exist-nothing exists, the particles aren’t there, our egos aren’t here. We’re nothing. Unite those hands (in meditation position?) & it’s the very beautiful, poetic, mystical conundrum we’re living in. Believing in nothing & everything is the most accurate lie I can give to this magical mystery. It’s a paradox.