Paradox

My ponderings on things spiritual and energetic have continued without interruption since my previous postings on love and energy and physics. (Let There be Light, Have You Hugged Your Rabbit Today?, Reality, and Other Strange Notions, Further Explorations, Attack of the Killer Strawberries) I haven’t written about them in a while, because I keep waiting for them to formulate themselves into some organized and coherent form which can be condensed into a few concise paragraphs that will sum it all up in such a way that everyone who hears it will instantly understand, and wonder why they never looked at it that way before.

I guess I was trying to write a report. Neatly typed and properly APA-formatted, with logically flowing introduction, body and conclusion, complete with supporting references and accurate citations.

Silly me.

The wisdom of the universe is paradoxically both amazingly simple and infinitely complex. On the simple end of the spectrum, it kind of seems like Einstein actually summed things up pretty well with E=mc2, so if you insist on rules and formulas to govern life and reality, there’s that. No Fourier or Laplace transforms, no integrals or derivatives or differential equations… just a little bit of simple grade school algebra to explain… well, pretty much Everything. Matter and light and energy, everything there is, and how each relates to the other — how much more straightforward can you get? An eighth-grader can work it out on a five-dollar calculator, but neither scientists nor theologians have yet been able to fully comprehend all its ramifications. No wonder Jesus told his disciples that “God uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.” There’s that paradox thing again. God is just one big omnipotent paradox.

Every time I think I’m beginning to get a handle on the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything, I stumble over something new that makes me realize I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. Every puzzle piece that clicks satisfyingly into place uncovers a thousand others I hadn’t noticed before. So I’ve given up on being organized. There will be no Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of my journey. I’ll just write what comes to me as it comes, I guess, and if you’re interested you can follow along with my wandering explorations as I go. Don’t expect coherency or flawless, seamless logic. Things that make absolute, perfect sense can simultaneously be completely unfathomable. Paradox. The simpler they are, the more complex and difficult to understand. Don’t believe me? Okay, imagine nothing. It’s a simple concept. Nothing is just the absence of anything. But try as you may, I bet you can’t imagine what it would actually be like. It’s beyond the grasp of our human brains. We have no experience of nothing, and therefore we are unable to imagine it. And yet we know what it is. We have a word for it. We can say it, but we can’t see it. How screwy is that?

The first rule in this journey is that you have to think outside the box. You have to consider possibilities beyond the realm of your own experience and understanding. There’s that paradox thing again. How can you think of something you have no experience or understanding of? I dunno. We thought of nothing, so it must be possible. Best I can figure, you just keep reaching and stretching, pushing the limits of your brain a little bit, then a little bit more. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years, and it seems to somehow keep us moving along, discovering new things and reaching new levels of understanding. Although sometimes it also seems like the more we learn, the less we understand. We can walk on the moon, but Pharoah’s magicians could turn sticks into snakes. And even though we heard the story in Sunday School and everybody knows that everything you learn in Sunday School is true, deep down inside we believe it just about as much as they’d have believed we could go to the moon. (Moses is a different story. God was on his side, so of *course* his stick turned into a snake. That’s perfectly understandable, right?) But I digress…

The reason for the “think outside the box” rule is that I have begun to believe that human beings are just naturally spiritually dyslexic. Or maybe just stubbornly contrary. We get everything backwards. God said that if we believe, anything is possible. Or, to use a Wayne Dyer paraphrase, “You’ll see it when you believe it.” And what do we say? “I’ll belive it when I see it.” Go on, admit it. You’ve said it thousands of times, haven’t you?

Here’s another one. According to Jesus, it’s grace that saves us; and yet for thousands of years Christians have been making up rules that people must follow in order to be worthy of God’s grace. Talk about a paradox. How can you be worthy of grace? If you could manage to be good enough to deserve to be forgiven, there wouldn’t be anything to forgive. Grace ceases to exist in the absence of imperfection.

So since we’re so good at getting stuff backwards, one of my new “pondering tools” is to look at things backwards. And upside-down, and inside-out. That way, just in case we had it the wrong way around to begin with, I might actually stumble over an important bit of Truth that’s been staring us in the face all along.

In addition to their propensity for getting things backwards, humans are also very good at totally misinterpreting things. Jesus’ disciples, for instance, fully expected him to establish a kingdom and sit on the throne as king, right there in Jerusalem. They even argued about their own positions in the kingdom. After all, the prophets said he was going have a kingdom. Of course the prophets also said he was going to die, but that didn’t fit into their understanding of what “kingdom” meant, so they skipped over that part. Things that don’t fit our understanding of reality just don’t exist for us. In one of my psych classes we read about scientists who did an experiment in which they raised kittens in a room that contained only horizontal lines. After the cats grew up, they put them into a regular room, and the cats kept bumping into table legs. Their reality had never contained vertical lines, and so their brains were unable to process the concept. The data didn’t compute, so it was erased from the picture. As a result, anything vertical was invisible to the cats.

Humans are just like that. We look at things through the bias of what we have learned and experienced as “reality.” Anything that doesn’t fit gets erased, and we can look right at it without seeing it. Those prophets were trying to relay a message they had no language for, and had to make do with what they had, and a lot of stuff got lost in translation or just ignored because it didn’t “make sense.” What was meant to be metaphorical was understood as literal, and the result was a lot of confusion and disappointment and disbelief. Paradigms aren’t all that easy to shift.

Silly Israelites. All they had to do was think about it a little bit instead of just taking everything so literally. It’s pretty obvious, in hindsight.

Of course WE have it all figured out, because we’re so much smarter and wiser than they were. We’ve got electricity, after all, and indoor plumbing and Google, so naturally we have a depth of understanding they simply weren’t able to manage.

We’re also really arrogant. But hey, that’s just human nature, right? 🙂

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