Living in the Paradox

We often want to take one truth as absolute and simply deny anything that contradicts it. In a paradox, however, two different statements or beliefs can contradict each other, and yet both may contain elements of truth. It seems to me that the truth is that life is one paradox after another. That creates tension, but we live in that tension. We must.

One paradox that is creating quite a bit of tension recently and will continue in the foreseeable future is the tension between the individual and the community. Humanity has lived through times when the individual
was totally subsumed by the institutions of church, state, or corporation. As expressions of community the
institution was seen as all-important, while the individual’s needs, desires, and autonomy were seen as unimportant. There was no balance between the two human elements of society. We need to be able to develop fully as individuals, but we also need to be parts of a community.

In the current iteration of this paradox, we are struggling to find a balance between the public health needs of the community and the desires and autonomy of the individual. Somewhere in between these poles is the economic need of businesses to re-open. There is undeniable tension as we seek to live within this paradox.

In the church calendar, we transition from Easter to Pentecost and then Trinity Sunday. In some ways, I think, the idea of Trinity is a recognition of the paradox of body and spirit. Religion recognized the God of Creation. The physical world had a divine origin. At the same time the spiritual realm as seen as divine. We struggle to express our existence as either spirits encased in physical bodies or physical bodies into which God has breathed our spirits.

Then there is Jesus. We think of him as both divine spirit and physically human. Theologians have struggled to explain how this can be. Perhaps we need to admit that we have to live with this as a paradox. Following the Way of Jesus is accepting the difficult balance of fulfilling the needs of the physical earth (including our own bodies) and fulfilling the needs of our spirit. We cannot deny either set of needs without harming our whole existence. So, we live in the paradox and trust our Higher Power to bring good from it.

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