Overcoming Contradictions — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Overcoming Contradictions


Overcoming Contradictions
Sunday, August 21, 2016

The binary, dualistic mind cannot deal with contradictions, paradox, or mystery, all of which are at the heart of religion. Sadly, a large percentage of religious people become and remain quite rigid thinkers because their religion taught them that to be faithful, obedient, and stalwart in the ways of God, they had to seek some ideal “order” instead of growing in their capacity for love. These are not bad people; they simply never learned much about living inside of paradox and mystery as the very nature of faith.

Dictionaries define a contradiction as two things that cannot be true at the same time. I would say it this way: a contradiction is two things that cannot be true at the same time by your present frame of logic. As long as you do not reframe your reality, as long as you insist on your own frame of reference, you will not be able to find the wisdom in paradox. “The kingdom of God” is Jesus’ term for the bigger frame, or what we often call “the big picture” or “in the light of eternity” (sub specie aeternitate). You’ve got to find some framework that allows you to stand back and look at the moment with the eyes of Infinite Love and Mercy. Then you’ll see that many things which appear to be contradictory through logical, egocentric, dualistic thinking might not necessarily be so to a nondual mind.

A paradox is a seeming contradiction that may nonetheless be true if seen in a different frame than my “rational” mind. The word comes from the Greek prefix para meaning “beyond” or “outside of” and the verb dokein meaning “to appear or to think.” A paradox is beyond the normal way of thinking. Contradictions are based on logic, a set of assumptions or expectations which we take for granted. Conversion—a changed mind—allows you to call those assumptions and expectations into question. If you’re still overly attached to your ego, you normally can’t let go of these opinions. It takes true transformation to allow you to look at yourself from a bit of distance—with some calmness, compassion, and the humility and honesty to know that you don’t know.

In truth, we are all living paradoxes. No one or no thing is totally good or totally bad. Look at Paul, for example. He was a persecutor of Jesus’ followers, maybe even a murderer, all in the name of being a good Pharisee. Suddenly, on the road to Damascus, he meets Christ, and the strict line between good and bad, evil and virtue, dissolves. In that moment, the contradictions have been overcome in him.

Gateway to Silence:
Welcome what is.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Holding the Tension (an unpublished talk in Houston, Texas: 2007);
The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 36-37; and
A New Way of Seeing . . . A New Way of Being: Jesus and Paul (CAC: 2007), discs 1 and 2 (CD, MP3 download).

Image Credit: Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery (detail) by Pieter Breugel the Elder, 1565.
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