The Grist of Paradox
There is something about the unsolvable that can inspire the best in us. The underdog in a football game coming back from 0 and 42 to win…by an extra point…in the last second… of the second overtime; the mystery malfunction in a machine that with a mix of knowledge and intuition runs smooth again. Reconciliation between countries long in animosity. The unhealable disease that resolves completely. A market looking dismal, fraught with opportunity. True love finding each other in a world of billions of people.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his essay, The Crack-Up, “Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation – the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
He continues, “One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the ‘impossible,’ come true.”
The dissonance of this kind of paradox within us is like grist to a mill, waiting for the stones to grind two opposing ideas into the flour of the impossible-now-possible-now-real.
These same stones of paradox grind to an ear-shattering squeal or a full halt with grist like control, doom, lies, rigidity, dogma, futility, defeat, complaining, propaganda, and egotism. In these, the mind is made up with no-reason to turn. No room for in-spir-ation (root of the word: in spirit) to turn the wheels of possibility.
But you know the feeling of standing next to someone who thinks in possibility, who revels in the unsolvable like a dog with a bone, gnawing until it no longer exists. Maybe it’s you.
The wheels of your mind turn on paradox and you wake up with its solution in the middle of the night, or in the middle of a conversation—redirecting it, while washing dishes, or on the field at an impossible distance from the end zone.
“Find the real world,
Give it endlessly away,
Grow rich flinging gold to all who ask.
Live at the empty heart of paradox.
I’ll dance there with you—cheek to cheek.”
The mavericks of the world seem to have a knowing like Rumi. That doom and the impossible are always an option. They thrive in the empty heart of paradox and the so called impossible, eager to give it new meaning in the multiple dimensions of possibility, making this their real world. Maybe that’s you.
In the midst of doom and group think and markets and game clocks out of time, without denying them, they hold the paradox of the unseen possibility in their mind’s eye. They make flights that shouldn’t be possible, sprint as if outside of time, heal the so called unhealable, raise children and grandchildren into fantastic grounded humans in a crazy world, they invent products that raise our sights, all while doom, futility, scarcity and destruction co-exist with placards claiming to be the real world.
Doom, dogma, rigidity and the like aren’t wrong so much as an optional myopic and trivial perspective that ignores the multiple dimensions available to us. Meanwhile the real world exists right outside waiting to dance in the empty heart of paradox, the cosmic grist of paradox waiting to be ground into new possibility; the doom ripe for turning on its head.
Your everyday life is profound enough with paradox after paradox. You can probably think of at least three right now. One moment it may be in the mundane, like a reframe in your mind from a grumpy thought to an uplifting one. In another, it may be a complex decision that turns your life 180 degrees. In still another, it may be an energetic shift that changes your entire perspective of self. You’ll know them when you see them.
You may be the only one holding the contrasting thought in your team. Play it out anyway. The choice your thinking of may not be logical given the parameters before you, but the dimensions within you say, yes. You may be in a moment of hopelessness with something impossible before you. Or you may be in a moment of disbelief that it’s impossible for it to get any better.
I wonder what you’ll make of it this time?
Here’s to more of You in this world,