106- Mystery in Opposites
Much of life is spent in oscillating between opposites. Some swing from one extreme to another in utter helplessness, put into this oscillation through a complex and mostly inexplicable web of circumstances, often described as destiny or luck; and others refuse stubbornly to be a part of extremes and they live on the fence, either out of intellectual lethargy or out intellectual inability to chose or simply because they realize the futility of rigid positions.
In fact life finds its description only in two ends of the spectrum (good or evil) – meanings gets expressed only through extremes (centripetal force or centrifugal force), emotions are understood through opposites (joy or sorrow, happy or sad, elation or depression), concepts unfold in diametric opposites (hot or cold), human body acts as a physiological entity in harmony only on the taut balance of opposites (hyper-hypo viz. hypertension-hypotension etc), the world reveals itself to sight between extremes (light-darkness), ideologies are expressed as extremes (socialism or capitalism), consequences are expressed as opposites (hell and heaven, victory and defeat), so on and so forth. One would most likely conclude that life is binary, expressing itself only as the ubiquitous 0 or 1, suspending possibilities of anything else or anything in between.
We make sense of the world within the broad framework of these extremes. Our mind is able to rank in its own peculiar way, our experiences only on this scale between the extremes. Simultaneously dawns the realization that, we all search our balance, our sense of proportion through the construct of these extremes. Some who are able to find that proportion find it easy to deal with the vagaries of life – for they understand that the extremes are cognitive constructs – created only to understand – but reality always lies somewhere in the middle. Life may be understood in the hard colors of black and white, but is always experienced as shades of grey. It is this dilemma that flummoxes some and intrigues others. Those who succumb to the dilemma find it hard to negotiate the huge chasm between the philosophy and practice of life – and those who do, discover poetry in the ambiguity of life, enjoy its multi layered yet nuanced meaning.
Each one of us has our own way of dealing with strife that this pull of extremes puts us through. Kabeer lamented many years ago –
‘Chalti chakki dekh kar, diya kabeera roye
Dui paatan ke beech me, sabut bacha na koye.
(Kabeer cries on seeing a moving flour stone; No one escaped the crush of being in the middle of two)
And so did Ghalib,
‘imaan mujhe roke hai, to kheenche hai mujhe kufr
Kaaba mere peeche hai, to kaleesa mere aage’
(Conscience and crime each pull me towards them; like two different places of worship)
It is amazing to see individuals, teams, societies, communities and nations to desert their ideological positions because the utopia it promised never really materialized – and it is equally amazing to see them flirt with diametrically opposite ideological positions in search of their utopia. It is also not uncommon to see them settling for the amorphous and the so called impure middle.
So as we bid 2010 goodbye, here is toasting to the mystery in opposites and to the human quest of finding its sweet spot.