Five paradoxes of life and living: Black, white and grey

The more I think about how to live a life well lived, how to be our best selves both out in the world and inside our own head, the more I realise that life is full of paradoxes and conflicts.

Over the next week or so I will present five short paradoxes of life and living in 2018.

Paradox 1: The more certain and unambiguous our opinions, the further we get from the truth

In 2018 the world is drifting towards extremes.

Polarisation of opinion seems everywhere.

There is the Trump election despite a 46-48 loss in the popular vote. There is Brexit’s 52-48. There is marriage equality and abortion in Ireland (62-37 and 66-33 respectively), which saw Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times recently describe Ireland as having become a “two-thirds/one-third society: two-thirds broadly happy with liberal values and inclusiveness but one-third deeply unhappy with the way Ireland has changed”.

It seems that wherever we turn we hear someone who has certainty in their opinions.

Certainty of opinion, though, creates a fixed mindset, a closed worldview.

When we become resolute and unchangeable in our worldview, that’s the time to start asking questions.

This is not the same as doubt. Doubt can be pernicious and demotivating, but doubt comes from fear about the future, fear about the way things will turn out. Instead, thinking about the future as one of possibility rather than danger compels us to question the way things are and the way they can be.

Questioning invariably returns complexity. Things are complex. Real life is messy. Real life is never black or white.

The drift towards seeing everything as black or white ignores the fact that everything is actually a million shades of grey.

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