Reconciling the Opposites and Contradictions of Life

In order to function in the world, we have identified distinguishing characteristics and pairs of opposites, or contradictions, by which we determine how to orient our decisions and actions. We identify “good and bad” “right and wrong” “black and white” “healthy and unhealthy” “friendly and unfriendly” and any number of such oppositions and we then choose one side or the other to move through our lives.

At the same time, as we step back from the immediacy of the individual life, we begin to see that these apparent contradictions are in fact not as clear cut as we originally believed. We find that “good” may contain an element of “bad”, and that nothing is entirely one or the other. The Chinese Yin/Yang symbol represents this truth by putting a black dot in the white field, and a white dot in the black field. Even actions which we tend to look at as wholly evil are at some level part of a larger motion or action and their “evil” effects are at that level mitigated to serve a larger action, and may actually show “silver linings” for those “clouds”.

Sri Aurobindo points out “A great war, destruction or violent all-upheaving revolution, for example, may present itself to us as an evil, a virulent and catastrophic disorder, and it is so in certain respects, results, ways of looking at it; but from others, it may be a great good, since it rapidly clears the field for a new good or a more satisfying order. No man is simply good or simply bad; every man is a mixture of contraries: even we find these contraries often inextricably mixed up in a single feeling, a single action. All kinds of conflicting qualities, powers, values meet together and run into each other to make up our action, life, nature.”

The contradictions, while practical at a certain level of action, must give way to the larger vision that can hold both sides within one view as part of a larger whole. “Behind all relativities there is this Absolute which gives them their being and their justification.” It is from the position of this Absolute that we can see the deeper sense of the things we believe to be irreconcilable opposites.

reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 3, The Eternal and the Individual, pp. 382-383

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