The dark makes the light meaningful. Negative allows the positive to become electricity. Tension is relieved by calm. Error is corrected by truth. Our mental worlds exist in a sea of opposing concepts.
Sometimes when the mind is idle, it’s fun to list pairs of opposites. People have probably been doing so since the dawn of time. The most obvious pair was likely that of night and day. The night must have been a very frightening time. Before the discovery of fire-making, there were none of the convenient light sources we take for granted today. On dark, cloudy nights, there was not even the security of the Full Moon, nor the glow of stars.
During the day, the mysteries of the night were revealed. People could see the dangers that lurked at night. It’s easy to understand how humanity’s concepts of evil and good were conceived. We use the contrast between evil and good as benchmarks for our belief systems and codes of ethics.
A couple of weeks ago, was that infamous Wednesday when the forces of ignorance and extremism were engaged to engulf the minds of seditionists towards violence against the “temple of American democracy”. I remembered an old saying by an ancient philosopher whose name I cannot recall. The sage reflected that violence and power are opposite notions. Violence is useful where power is threatened. When violence degenerates to anarchy, power disappears. The sage reminds us that where one rules, the other is absent. The violence of that Wednesday was a destructive stew of vanity that was served up to the world at the end of a political regime.
There is the popular notion that claims opposites attract each other. There is some truth to this. On the physical level, we say nature abhors a vacuum. Negative and positive poles exist on magnets. Dark is the absence of light just as cold is the absence of heat.
Have you ever pondered the extremes of such opposites? What would absolute darkness look like? Is there such a thing as absolute light? Science has determined that absolute zero is as cold as is possible–that would be the total absence of energy. One wonders if there is such a thing as ultimate brightness. This is difficult to imagine because we risk blindness at light intensity far less than that of the Sun. The Sun emits “dimmer” light than many other, much more intense stars.
Similar effects apply to cold and heat. The far reaches of Outer Space have temperatures approaching absolute zero. Do the most active, unstable stars have temperatures approaching some sort of absolute heat? The mind can engage is this sort of mental play for hours on end. I can only guess at the types of opposing concepts people the likes of Stephen Hawking ponder daily in their minds.
Today is Opposite Day, an unofficial holiday that celebrates the contrasts of our lives. We can take this celebration beyond the its light-hearted intent. We can contemplate deep truths that are revealed by studying extremes of dialectics. Profound, golden nuggets of wisdom can be discovered by contemplating opposites and the combinations of them. After all, we live in a world that is not all black and white.
Enjoy your Opposite Day, or don’t.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from 20th century novelist, poet, and painter, Hermann Hesse. “Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.”