“There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.” ~Niels Bohr
I’ve been thinking a lot about this general idea ever since I wrote my recent post about meeting life’s greatest tests alone. I realized even as I was writing the post that my words were likely to misunderstood by those who may be attached to the opposite truth that none of us is an island. My discussion of embracing aloneness would sounds like blasphemy instead of an opposite (but equally true) truth.
This paradox was brought back to mind again tonight as I was doing a reading with The Power Deck: The Cards of Wisdom (affiliate link) by Lynn V. Andrews and drew card 32 (Wisdom) that included the following quote:
“To know that you are truly alone is the first step on the long journey to self-discovery on the path of power. The final step is to learn that you are linked with the universe, that you have already become part of everything and already live in all the lodges of the universe. This is wisdom.”
Once again, here is the idea that each of us is both truly alone and at one with the universe. Both of these seeming opposite truths are true. Or to put it another way:
“Love says ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two, my life flows.” ~Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
I am indeed both nothing and everything. Just as I am completely alone and completely connected.
How many arguments in this world—both the “small” ones between two people and the “larger” ones between whole political or religious systems—stem from people finding one of these great truths and becoming to convinced that they have found THE TRUTH that they cannot recognize that the opposite truth that the other person (or other side) is professing is also true?
Perhaps the real TRUTH lies always in the ability to allow our life to flow in the tension between the two great truths, despite the seeming paradox of their being opposites. One of the blessings (and curses) of my personality type is that I tend to easily see both sides of things. This can be helpful in dealing with difficult situations because I can almost always understand the other person’s point of view.
It can be challenging because I so often live in the land of paradox which makes it challenging to explain my point of view to others because it tends to sound like I am always contradicting myself. It also tends to make me sound (to those who are assured of the truth of their great truth) as if I am arguing for the opposite of whatever they believe because I can never completely embrace one great truth without being equally aware and convinced of its opposite great truth. It makes me appear argumentative when I’m really just reaching for a balanced view.
I think that is one of the challenges of language. It only allows us to express one thing at a time, which often means one end of the spectrum of true at a time, and this tends to automatically lead to either/or conversations. What we really need in this world is better ways to express both/and. Perhaps if we could start with better ways to express it, we can grow into better ways to comprehend and embrace it.
In the meantime, I will continue to struggle along with the imperfect language available to me as I try live into the tension of embracing the paradoxes in my life.
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