Saturday, October 15, 2005

Thoughts about Paradox

Paradox !

Paradox is a strange word. It seems to mean two opposites at the same time. Like being a Republican and Democrat at the same time, Liberal and Conservative. A cultured redneck. It doesn't mean irony, it doesn't mean equivocation, (a wishy-washy I can't decide, so I'll just split the middle, maybe the music is good, maybe it isn't). No. Paradox is an in your face kind of word. A word that makes us think. If we let it. A good paradox makes us uncomfortable. It shakes our sense we know how the world is made. Schrodinger's Cat, the dead/alive cat, that is the essence of paradox. That is not an equivocal cat, it is just both fully dead, and fully live. Ready to come drag a mouse onto our bed, or demand to be fed in its best regal manner. Yet it's also partly dead? How is this possible?

Paradox, like that cat dragging in a dead rat, brings in things that upset our comfortable existence. It points to things better ignored, left unsaid, things we hope will go away. The dictionary shows this same schizoid relationship. Webster's New World Dictionary (1970 version) has two opposing definitions of paradox. The first says: "A statement that seems contradictory, absurd, etc. but may be true in fact." The second, "a statement that is self-contradictory in face and, hence false." How can both of these be true at the same time? It's a paradox.

Paradox is at the heart of many of our theologic problems. I have a simple example of how we can get stuck on half the paradox. I asked God; how frequently to have communion? Catholics have it every day, many Protestants once a month. What was the true number? I asked.

God gave me a simple paradoxical answer. "Just do both." My response was immediate. "I can't do both. If I do one, I can't do the other." My human limitations make it impossible for me to both have communion every day, and once a month. It isn't that one is right and the other wrong, but both are right.

It is like the collapse of the wave function in quantum mechanics. The electron is both particle and wave, 100% of both, yet we can only verify one or the other. Our actions collapse the wave function to one or the other. Paradox is like that, some examples:

God is fully in charge, yet every act of mine has cosmic significance.
God cannot stand my sin, yet He loves me.
Our best theologic imaginings are only blind groping in the dark. Yet it is so simple that all we have to do is become as little children. A four year old may have the best chance to understand. He hasn't learned not to trust.

I heard this early one morning.
Prime Paradox

To know I am unknowable
and know you can know Me.
This is the heart of…
the essence of… Truth.

Not to know of My great love.
But to know My great love for you.
Such great love that gifts you with pain
to burn away all illusion.

To know without question
in the dark night of your soul.
There is pattern in chaos.
There is true hope for you.

In midst of uncertainty.
In the waves of life’s storms.
Hear Me and know Me
in the silence of doubt.
© Presbypoet, November 16, 2003,
heard at 6:30 AM

That is what this is all about. To know Him. So I like to hear what others see about Him from other perspectives. They help us know Him.


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