Thursday, March 01, 2012

Multi-Perspectivalism in the Paradox Zone

For a moment last night I felt a bit like Neo in the Matrix....well, maybe I felt a bit more like Keanu Reeves in one of those moments when he goes, "whoa.." in his seemingly semi-stoned skater personality.

Whoa...some sort of realization about holding more than one perspective, seemingly diametrically opposed, each the kind of perspective that could not exist if the other were true. Yet, here I am, holding both as if I'm a non-drinker staring at the bottom of an empty beer glass as the last of the liquid eases down my throat. describes a paradox as (1) a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth, (2) a self contradictory or false proposition, (3) any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature, and (4) an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted opinion. Close enough.

Religious truths are often expressed in paradox, and paradox can also be a self-contradictory proposition, such as I always tell lies. I think we may be getting closer.

The paradox I'm holding revolves around a present-tense singularity and two distinctly different (or are they?) possible futures. In the present, I have finished my book and I am actively working hard to make the book tour successful and meaningful for everyone, including myself, making all these wonderful connections. I have also been working diligently on preparations around the potential of collapse in terms of economics, environment, and energy. It is because we have paid attention to the possibility of collapse that I am able to relax into the work with my book.

If I really believed everything is collapsing (it is) then why am I planning and executing a book tour that will take me all over the country? If I really believe my book tour is going to happen (it is), and I'm going be traveling around the country, why do I bother to be prepared for collapse? Both things cannot happen, at least not at the same time.

James Fowler, the author of Stages of Faith, explores the parallels between psychological and spiritual growth and development and claims that beliefs, as opposed to faith, are polar perspectives. Paradoxically, those who tightly cling to their beliefs or dogma rather than open themselves up to the possibilities of new truth may never experience the wonder of spiritual reality. In the 5th stage of faith, called Conjunctive Faith, people begin to realize the limits of logic and start to accept the paradoxes in life, that life is a mystery. Unfortunately, this is also a stage that can paralyze people by the huge gap between reality and the view would like to hold as real, or by the fear of being out of their comfort zone or for their own well-being.

Another author and philosopher, Alan Watts, explores the nature of paradox in his classic, The Wisdom of Insecurity. According to Watts, holding onto security is like trying to grasp water in your hands — it is futile. Like it or not, life is a fluid experience, not a fixed entity. Life is continually changing, and it is only when we understand this truth, that we can navigate life in a more meaningful manner.

This paradox, for me, is really nothing more than an insurance policy, not a declaration of what will happen, but rather,  what might happen. The same reasoning applies to all of us when we carry auto, life, and home insurance. It's because we realize how bad our life conditions could suddenly turn if something were to go wrong.

Oh, yeah...there's also this little thing about doing your sacred work regardless of the outcome. So in collapse mode,  and with the growing tide of totalitarianism on the rise, those who see the reality of what's happening in the physical and systems planes, and how those things affect individuals, communities, and nations, more of us can identify with the call to overcome the action/inaction paradox of the 5th stage and step into the 6th stage of Universalizing Faith.

After all...more and more of us are asking "what have we got to lose?"

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