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On Paradox's Dance Floor

Parker Palmer informs us that there is great promise in learning to embrace paradox. But it is difficult for many to see that possibility and that inability has led us to our present day dilemma. We are a drunk on the energy that is being generated in an effort to avoid dancing on the floor of paradox. We are facing addictions to drugs, money, power, sex, chaos, violence and fear along with rampant expressions of fundamentalistic thinking about everything from religion to public health issues.

It is crucial to try as much as possible to think about this place that we have allowed ourselves as a culture to arrive. We are at a very important set of crossroads that offer many invitations to us as a culture. One of the major invitations at the moment regards our management of the Covid-19 virus and the fundamentalist ways of thinking that many among us are espousing. There are few legitimate arguments that one can make for not being willing to take a vaccine when so many have taken it and are fine, but even if one could make such arguments about a vaccination, it is impossible to include mask wearing in it. Mask wearing is a simple act that protects the wearer, but primarily protects those with whom the wearer encounters. Thus, one wonders, what is the argument that is being made by those who object to masks other than one that is grounded in a rigidly fixed idea that leaves no room for an alternate view point

Paradox is not about making up alternate narratives that suit ones politics, no it is about holding two ideas that have equal value and are inescapable. Whether one embraces paradox or not does not change the fact that its opposing ideas are both true even though it is difficult to acknowledge that truth. When we read statements from Jesus such as follows,“ The last shall be first, and the first shall be last” or “ If you seek your life, you will lose it, if you lose your life you will find it,” they make no sense unless there is more to them than the surface reveals. One notices quite quickly that there is an invitation in these words to come onto the dance floor with paradox and engage in learning the rhythms that will help to navigate the dissonance that will appear as paradox is embraced.

A part of the foundation for building a more realistic view of the world is grounded in the willingness to accept the invitation to embrace life with an understanding that opposites which are treated as equal entities can become life affirming. A view that includes understanding that the Creator has not made anything that is bad and that all humans are of equal value in the heart of the Creator. But it is a fact that some of that human family will act badly and that truth has to be held alongside the fact that the Creator's intention was not for that to be the case. This is a very difficult portion of the truth of the universe to hold in ones head and heart. It remains true whether or not we ever like it or accept it.

Paradox invites us to stand in what Parker Palmer calls the “tragic gap,” a space in between “cynicism” and “irrelevant idealism” where creative energy is generated. This is the space of holding the opposites and standing in a focused manner in the dissonance created by them and choosing to live a life supported by hope. It is the commitment to this way of being in the world that undergirds the work of the Center for Racial Healing. We stand in the “tragic gap” with the knowledge that we are not alone and we must strive each day to be “a half shade braver.”

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