Opposites

Patrick wrote about the concept of nondualism in his newsletter and it reminded me of a piece I wrote a few years ago 1 about opposites.

What is nondualism? To quote:

”you are both living and dying... every moment more you live you also move closer to death”

You are not one or the other, you are both.

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, proposed the unity of opposites an explanation of which often uses the following quote attributed to him:

"the road up and down are one and the same"

Our perspective or direction of travel may determine our perception but it is still the same road, it merely exists in opposite states simultaneously.

Two sides of the same coin.

He believed everything was in a state of continual flux using the law of opposites to define the progression of changes in state.

Difference and sameness - the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

But we have a reliance on opposites - we need each side: there cannot be good if there is not bad, up cannot exist without down. We need that contrast to define things relative to other things, other states.

Much of our experience is relative: hotter or colder, better or worse - an infinite sliding analogue scale. It demonstrates that our understanding of everything around us is dependent on context.

Without context and comparison things start to lose their meaning. If there is no down, if up is the only state then it is just normal - it just is. If there is no concept of hot we cannot define cold as we have no frame of reference.

We could say cold, more cold, coldest but in relation to what?

The importance of contrary language is perfectly illustrated by the creation of "newspeak" in Orwells' 1984.

Newspeak, a radically altered version of English, is designed to remove ambiguity and extraneous meaning so as to control the thoughts of the populace. It has no need for synonyms or antonyms, something either is or it isn't: good or ungood - simplified language.

Without antonyms or opposites concepts become vague and definition disappears, as does the ability to adequately provide a contrary standpoint.

We must embrace opposites, and all states in between, as they provide a richness of life that we would not otherwise be able to appreciate due to the lack of capacity to describe.

  1. during Write365 so no longer available

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