Life is absolutely fascinating. Look at the world around you, the center of a rose, every country’s and tribe’s and religion’s history, your navel, computers bringing us any part of anything we care to search for, the amount and variety of personal stories, how a compliment changes our chemistry.

Life is often if not completely baffling. Just look at war or seemingly smaller conflicts like the one with your father, your significant other at times (why does he do that?!), and that photo from grade school science class showing a picture of outer space with a line pointing to a dot and the word “Earth is here” – who took THAT picture?

Life is beautiful: Look at a baby’s face while they sleep, a sunrise on a mountain top, your favorite poem or music or piece of art, making all the green lights without getting cut off or getting a speeding ticket, the perfect chocolate, the feel of your lover’s touch.

Life is, well, look again. Look at the contradictions, the dualities, the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. The beautiful flowers and trees and grasses delivering allergies to your eyes and nose, the love quickly turning to violence, the awful smell and taste of the Chinese herbs that make you feel better, your beloved favorite dessert recipes passed down in your family – present at every meal you can remember – contributing to the diabetes you just learned you have.

Here’s my top five paradoxes:


1. Human Nature:
Just look at the spectrum from tender gentle love to the cruelest of tortures and premeditated murder, greed, believing (believing!) that one race or religion or gender is superior to another, brilliance, kindness, sadism, creativity, generosity, the list could go on for blogs to show our countless contradictions – us, the “rational” species.

2. Weather: Every type of weather has a beauty and can bring destruction at the same time. Sunshine? Skin cancer. Rain? Flood. Snow? Avalanche. Fog? Accidents on the roads. Wind? (We don’t ‘see’ the wind, we see what it moves, remember.) Downed trees and power lines.

3. Love: We trust, we share, we kiss, we build, we grow love but we can’t actually see it, define it or know it will last. But we love, no matter what. How many poems or books or songs can we each list that speaks of the duality of love, the pain of being in love or losing love? (Maybe that blog has already started…) It must have a finite number at this moment, but there are more being written as we breathe in and out.

4. Humor: So much humor is based on being uncomfortable. We laugh at something that isn’t funny, then stop, and realize how hurtful that joke really was. We laugh when we’re sad or angry. Seems diametrically opposed, doesn’t it? We use humor to feed our egos, i.e. at the expense of others. That isn’t by itself funny, is it? Yet we all seem to believe humor is a vital part of our lives, another duality we subconsciously agree to. Laughing makes us cry sometimes. It feels so good to laugh it makes our stomachs and throats hurt.

5. Constant Change: That pretty much sums up paradox! Everything is changing, every second. That moment 10 keystrokes ago is gone. If nothing changed, think how weird and crowded this planet would be. Or how you’d still be helpless in diapers. Or that you would never have experienced a great night of lovemaking had you not changed from geeky teen to sleek 20-something. Think of being stuck with the former you you have worked to so hard to improve. We have in our language much that indicates our forgetting of (or denial) of change: “We need to find a permanent solution.” “This will last forever.” “I will never leave you.”

Some people despair over all of the above. I don’t. I love it. It’s life, it’s me, it’s you, it’s all there is.

The book “The Five Things We Cannot Change And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them” by David Richo, is a good choice if you are contemplating such things as how to be happy in this paradoxical life we live in. His five:

1. Everything changes and ends.
2. Things do not always go according to plan.
3. Life is not always fair.
4. Pain is part of life.
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

“In this book, I propose the somewhat radical idea that the five givens are not actually the bad news that they appear to be. In reality, our fear of and struggle against the givens are the real sources of our troubles. Once we learn to accept and embrace these fundamental, down-to-earth facts, we come to realize that they are exactly what we need to gain courage, compassion, and wisdom—in short, to find real happiness”. – David Richo

Some of you also know the famous saying (by Reinhold Niebuhr, an American Protestant theologian) from the world of recovery: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Detachment, compassion, deep breathing and gratitude are also crucial for us not just to cope with this life of paradox, but live it and love it (and hate it and then love it again).