Paradox: Incompatible Truths In Painful Harmony

Incompatible Truths

Recently I was reviewing my mailbox, deleting all emails that I thought no longer necessary and retaining those emails that intrigued me.

In November 2007, I received an unsolicited beautiful message from a friend. When I checked, I noticed that my friend just received it from a long chain of recipients-turned-into-messengers who were probably as intrigued as I was when I read it, and so excitedly passed it to every friend, thereby spreading it like a virus until it hit my mailbox.

The message was claimed to be the words of George Carlin, a famous American comedian. Here is an excerpt of that message: a sample of striking paradox soaked deeply into the profoundness of truth hidden in our modern reality.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete. . .

I admire how George Carlin saw through the undetectable, the invisibles, the unnoticeable, through the unseen reality at work beyond our daily rushed life. He beautifully declares observations with conflicting expectations, bringing incompatible truths together in painful harmony.

Reading through his message line by line, I cannot but agree with its truthfulness. How true! We have wider highways but narrower perspectives, we have more possessions with reduced values. We have conquered almost every space, including the outer space but not our tiny inner space, we have mastered the atoms but not our own unforgiveness and prejudice. We are like big men with little character living in gorgeous expensive houses that is far from home, completing varying advanced degrees and then proudly exposing our senselessness, by parading how much knowledge we acquired while hiding our inability to make sound judgement.

Opposite Truths

Dealing with our own paradoxes in life may not be easy. Most of us when facing two incompatible truths tend to choose one and neglect the other. And when we do, we face an undesirable consequence.

As I write this article, I am in the process of choosing between justice and grace — two principles that are both important in bringing peace both to our society as well as to our hearts. I am in a position that calls for the implementation of “just” practices in my work place. Yet I am also a Christian where my entire faith is founded in the profound message of grace and forgiveness. The whole doctrine of my belief begins and ends with the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

I am called to support justice, yet I am also called to dispense grace. But they seem to me as opposite as east and west. Like oil and water, they seem to repel each other.

I feel like lying in between two opposing yet equally powerful and important truths that are incompatible with each other—a paradoxical situation—where I need to choose. Yet when I do, I will violate the other.

How can I balance justice and grace in my heart? How can I keep them both to peacefully coexist side by side in my daily life?

How should I deal with my own paradoxes. Perhaps I just need to be comfortable with it. Perhaps I need faith . . . but how?

I’m just wondering.

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