image credit: jonrawlinson
While I was living in India, a friend had just returned from a trip, visiting sacred sites around the country. She offered me some water that she had collected from the Ganges River. She offered it to me as a very precious gift and indicated that I should drink it! I thought it was okay for her to drink it, since she was Indian and immune to the hosts of parasites and germs that can make a foreigner like me very sick. I did not want to be impolite and refuse her gift, so rationalizing that it was a small quantity, I decided to go for it, telling my immune system that this was holy water and it was really OK!
A great example of living with paradox is the phenomenon of the Ganges River, or Mother Ganga, as the river is referred to by Hindus. The river is worshiped as the living form of the goddess and it is considered very auspicious to bathe in it and great good fortune to be cremated on the banks of the river. On any day, while remains of burnt bodies and ashes float down the river, people can be seen bathing and drinking handfuls of the sacred water in their morning ablutions, as well as brushing their teeth and washing their clothes. The water of the river is considered to be purifying, and its purifying quality has been confirmed by science. For some unexplained reason, the water has an extraordinary ability to retain oxygen and kills cholera and dysentery.
In our own lives, paradox is essential to the functioning of both the individual and the group. In his book Avalanche: Heretical Reflections on the Dark and the Light, Brugh Joy MD suggested that there is a collective force field in all groupings whether it is a family, city, religious or political group. Some individuals live out the good and ‘acceptable’ side for the collective, while some individuals live out the dark and disowned side for the collective. Most of us live somewhere in between. He pointed out that desiring permanent peace is a need for control and that life is not controllable, that we essentially need the forces of both peace and chaos to maintain the rhythm of change and creativity to reach the greater potential of the collective. This may be true for both the individual and the group. As individuals we may have the same forces at work in our psyche.
Paradox then is the essential element that enables us to aspire to our highest potential. In order to experience wholeness, as I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, we must accept and embrace all facets of the truth of who we are. The truth is never black or white, it comes in many shapes and forms. We are a bundle of contradictions, the dark and the light, in a dance of creation that is continuously seeking to exist in harmony amidst chaos and therefore as a unified whole.