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“In order to eat, you have to be hungry. In order to learn, you have to be ignorant. Ignorance is a condition of learning. Pain is a condition of health. Passion is a condition of thought. Death is a condition of life.” - Robert Anton Wilson, Leviathan
This newsletter has always aspired, for better or worse, to be a pithy treatise about the meaning and the meaninglessness of existence, beating at the pulse of what it means to be human, a mere passer-by across the undulating horizon of life’s uncertainties. However, for me, the most compelling reason to explore life in its philosophical entirety is the ability to examine how every experience and moment also contains its exact opposite.
For example, autonomy is usually enabled by the support of others; the feeble and weak are sometimes crippled by the strength of their own ambitions and expectations; freedom is only freeing when the (perceived) threat of containment forebodingly lurks. The same concept applies to the roles we inhibit. From mothers and fathers to dancers and wrestlers to hypnotists and fortune tellers, every role is defined by an antithetical otherness.
I find these binaries thoroughly illuminating and democratising because they exist in every circumstance or account of reality regardless of ideology or individual values. Underneath the seemingly neat belief systems, wholesome or not-so-wholesome labels and manicured identities we unproblematically assume, is an ever simmering tension between two perceivably irreconcilable forces, each threatening to outwit, outmanoeuvre and outpace the other, in the flicker of a moment, much like in a Shakespearean duel.
But these contradictory tensions can only be cajoled into visibility through a specialised form of writing - writing that isn’t simply about life and its whirlpool of events, or what might or could happen, but more specifically on the hidden threads of irony that are weaved into the entire fabric of our existence.
The irony of straining to achieve specific goals at the risk of losing a lot more, the irony of meticulously planning a defined reality that is anything but certain, the irony of equating ownership with power. All the above instances engender a comical sense of misguided confidence that we know what’s best for us, a line of thinking that isn’t in synch with the laws of nature.
The meeting of opposing forces, when studied closely, reflects a poetic meditation on the diversity, richness and paradoxes of life, that nothing exists without a counter force. There is an indelible duality to all tangible experiences because meaning and significance can never exist in a singular bubble - they are realised through the cosmic collision of contrasts.
Words and more generally writing equips us with the tools to gently lift the gossamer that masks the multitude of contradictions we accept without question, maybe because they are uncomfortable to confront. Through surgical-like precision, writing affords us with a way to pursue this necessary complexity, peeling away, layer by layer, the multiple dimensions to all our destinies. Sometimes the values we cherish the most are also home to contradictions and irreducible conflicts.
These weekly reflections that arrive in your inbox are my love letters to some of humanity’s most fundamental dualities - the delicate balance between life and death, absence and presence, the smallness of human life against the greatness of the universe. Like all writers, I feel an obligation to show my readers that every worldly event or experience conceals a metanarrative waiting to be explored. All we need are the words to see.
Duality is something that truly interests me in many facets of life but for example in spirituality, to express being a non-dualist means to recognise duality as definable. But I was struck by your statement “freedom is only freeing when the (perceived) threat of containment forebodingly lurks.” Freedom...another favourite of mine that I particularly explore as ‘sovereignty’ - I’m not sure I agree that to feel ‘freeing’, containment must lurk...? I don’t disagree exactly - it’s something I wish to consider further. If I think on sovereignty, I see it as a state of being that is ‘natural’ in terms of at the point of realisation - to ‘feel’ it does not necessarily have to match the material reality.
Fascinating area for me to think further on this. Personally I totally accept dualism as a concept but feel out of step with this belief amongst many other people.
"every role is defined by an antithetical otherness." I never really thought about it all this way. Beautiful post today. The writing itself is an example of what you're talking about, the gently lifted gossamer.