Daily Archives: September 9, 2006

Meditation on Contradictory Truths

It’s been nearly 9 months since I brought to you the latest breakthrough I had in my search for a coherent account of reality. I’ve still been searching, and today, I reveal to you my latest revelations about life.

Since my last breakthrough, I’ve kept pushing and pushing. I thought deeper and deeper. At some point, the quest for knowledge, I realized, had become a quest to unlearn everything I knew. I kept throwing away assumption after assumption. Finally, stripped of all knowledge, I was left with only two fundamental truths. 1) Nothing matters. 2) Love everything. Of course, it’s not as if these were new discoveries, it’s just that everything else seemed to stem from these truths. The first, “nothing matters,” comes from my more cynical, skeptical mind. In this view, everything is meaningless and has no purpose. I came upon this truth when I kept asking myself, “Why? Why? Why?” With every answer, I tried to dig deeper. At the bottom of the hole I dug, I found nothingness. I found no reason to choose good over evil. I found no purpose to life. My second fundamental truth was a command that came from my (still) newfound Christianity: Love everything.

These seem to answer the two basic questions that I set out to answer: What does it mean to be human? how should I live? Yet, my answers were contradictory. How can you love everything if you believe that the universe is meaningless? I tried to take a leap, to pick one or the other, but I couldn’t. In my mind, there was no reason to choose good over evil, yet my choice was for good. (Let alone the fact that I couldn’t explain what was good or what was evil.) How could I explain this contradictory state? I tried to explain it pragmatically — that good was the best way to live life, but that seemed wrong. It didn’t take into account the complexities of life. Sometimes, you can gain from evil.

For months, I tried in vain to reconcile these two truths. I toyed with an idea of the “love absurd.” I’d write feverishly in what I thought were moments of epiphany, but nothing ever stuck. Last December, I finally came upon viewing the world as a giant game of improve and the philosophy of “forgetting the audience,” but that still felt too descriptive. It wasn’t the Middle Way I sought. In fact, I felt a Middle Way would be a betrayal of my principles, my truths. That’s why I’m didn’t lean toward Buddhism after all my thinking. I didn’t want to equivocate in my command to love everything.

Finally, I am stumbling upon a possible path toward reconciling the two contradictory principles: Don’t. It’s not that I’m going to ignore the contradictions; I’m going to embrace them. The struggle is the greatest thing about life. It is the Sisyphean cry of the existentialist, “I will not be defeated. I will live anyway,” combined with the Christian sense of purpose. The answer of “How to live” is to pursue contradictory goals at the same time.

Of course, this probably makes more sense to me than it does to you. I can only explain my proto-thoughts by analogy. My breakthrough came during my study of government. Modern democracies are comprised of two contradictory goals: To provide freedom to the people and to give government the necessary strength to act. It pits chaos versus order.

A completely ordered life is to live under totalitarianism. To me, this is surrendering completely to my second truth and forgetting to step back. A completely chaotic life is to live in a violent state of nature. To me, this is surrending to my first truth and acting however I want because nothing matters.

Democracy could be construed as a Middle Way. It’s often portrayed as a delicate balancing act. I disagree strongly with this characterizing. It’s not a balancing act; it’s a struggle. It is a messy, constant struggle. Just like my struggle with the meaningless universe. With a democracy, you fight to create law, to define situations, but to not define all situations.

I will live my life similarly. But then I ask myself, is it possible to do such a thing? Does it make sense to be a living contradiction? Yes, I can.

I now appeal to another analogy. Is light a particle or a wave? Kind of one, kind of the other, kind of both. It’s bizarre. The human mind works the same way. If light can be two things at once, then perhaps I can as well?

And so, I begin to think that to live life is to constantly struggle between contradictory fundamental truths (perhaps not necessarily the two I’m thinking of now). There is no final reconciliation. There is no transcendent truth above them. There is no delicate balance. There is only the struggle.

I realize: Hope and futility can coexist.

Of course, the analogies are imperfect. I haven’t even bothered to explain why I think “Love everything” should be a fundamental truth. I have holes all over the place, I bet. Are my fundamental truths even the correct ones? Still, I think I’ve stumbled upon my main contradiction: Hope and futility. And I’ve realized that although they are in contradiction, they can still coexist. The key is not transcendence or balance, but struggle. To live my life simultaneously believing in, and acting upon, both.