The Crucible of Contradiction

What do you do when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place? Impossible choices drive us over the grey, craggy edges of carefully laid plans and secure predictable lives into the creative fire of imagination. In this crucible of contradiction, opposing forces meld to form something new.

It is extremely hard to hold paradox. How do we become strong yet sensitive, both masculine and feminine, light and shade? And the ultimate of dichotomies, how can our worst enemy become our greatest teacher and friend? All leaps forward in personal development come through the courage to hold ourselves in the tension of opposites. As William Blake says, ‘without contraries is no progression’.

The balance of equal and opposing forces is the most powerful creative process in the world. If we can stay with conflicting thoughts and feelings long enough, these polar opposites will teach each other something. It is the point of intersection, the mandorla that produces insight, something new beyond win/lose or compromise.

We can only understand the power of paradox from a higher perspective. It takes a fundamental shift in awareness. We appear as separate beings with diverse destinies. Yet, when viewed from a perspective of unity, we are all part of a whole. Every man is my brother, every woman my sister and my enemy is a reflection of myself; a part that I struggle to identify with. When we see everyone as aspects of ourselves as if through a single eye, all paradox is resolved. Everything that I do to others, I do to myself, now makes sense.

When you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, practice holding both sides of the issue. You could try drawing a mandorla. Take three pieces of paper. Draw a circle on two of them and inside each of the circles, describe the opposing sides of your dilemma. When you’ve fully articulated both sides, take the third piece of paper and draw two intersecting circles. The point of intersection of these circles is called the mandorla. Something magical happens in this space. Like oxygen and hydrogen, two elements come together to form a completely new life sustaining compound. If you have patience, a way forward will present itself that you could never have anticipated. Often this process will take you into unchartered territory, even challenge your identity. I know this from my own experience. it requires trust in the unknown and therefore giving up control. Something we all find very difficult to do.

Contradictions are the soul of humanity. The ability to hold paradox is a sign of maturity. Those who can hold themselves in the crucible of their transformative edges become most human. In going to their edges, they truly learn how to fly.

Posted on

Back to list of posts