I often enjoy arranging still lifes and floral arrangements that combine polar opposites. In a way, I believe that’s what people and myself are comprised of. We love freedom and crave security. We want lessez faire for ourselves and prohibitions for others. Some of us prefer summer; some of us prefer winter.
Recently, a friend initiated a discussion of the U.S. State of Florida. It is a place where opposites of rich and poor are blatantly present. The opposites of suburban development versus the wilds of nature are manifest. Humans drained swamps and built retirement villages and cities on top of the converted land. Yet nature batters the settlements with heat, humidity, and tropical storms on a regular basis. Humans respond with air conditioning then nature replies with hurricanes that disrupt the electrical power needed to run the HVAC units.
My friend and I affirmed that we are better off, living where we currently live. I live in Nebraska and my friend lives in San Jose, California. I am accustomed to weather extremes; he is less so. Ironically and unfortunately, Californians have had to deal with their own environmental opposites lately. First there have been droughts that provided fuel for wildfires. Already this year, record-breaking rainstorms have caused flooding and fatalities. The state that is otherwise a mild-mannered haven became a nightmare of catastrophic proportions.
Today is Opposite Day–a day that is intended to celebrate the concept of opposites in a light-hearted manner. Yet more serious matters came first to mind today. The abrasiveness of political extremists, and the conflict between knowledge and ignorance seem utmost in our cultural dialogue these days. We need to celebrate compromise and colaboration more, and downplay discord and conflict. The “my way or the highway” mindset rarely turns out well.
We might consider subjectivity and objectivity to be opposite ways of analyzing things. However, when we position the subjectivity of the arts together with the wisdom of the scientific method, we discover a powerful unification of the opposites. When working together, they are greater than they are apart. Many of our useful discoveries were inspired by dreams and hunches. Those hypotheses were put through the rigors of experimentation and mathematical probabilities. The ancient dream of journeying to the Moon and beyond is being realized through the modern sciences and technologies. One might say that the wispy world of imagination and the practical world of action combined to bring about the new reality.
Airliners must have right wings and left wings to be able to fly. Political systems need to recognize again that right wingers and left wingers are necessary in the overall scheme of governing a nation. With the loss of one wing, an airliner spins out of control. The same can be said when one ideology suppresses other ideas–the political system becomes decrepit and corrupt. It is wise to keep extremes and opposites balanced with each other so as to achieve auspicious moderation.
Opposites and their unification are the default operating system of Planet Earth. Our spheroid home rotates on its axis–causing day and night. The tilt of that axis brings about summer and winter during each orbital transit around the Sun. Light and dark; hot and cold; dry and wet–we could create a long list of opposites that together are essential for life.
Opposites of various forms create the intensity and the mildness along with the ugliness and beauty all around us. Without one, there would not be the other. These are some of the reasons I celebrate Opposite Day each year.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th/20th century German-Swiss poet, novelist, 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.”
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I am always interested to see where your essays go… What at first seemed like a visual comparison because a political, environmental, and social commentary. Enjoyed this one, lots to ponder.
The world is full of opposites so there are always paths to travel down.