Coincidentia Oppositorum

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Agree on the premises but squabble about the conclusion.

What sort of treachery has become reality!

It’s all about the rich, you see.

Ah, yet another scapegoat to deny my intrinsic responsibility.

Precisely.

Right and Left,

Rich and Poor,

Division is at our very core.

Our false dilemma is a deceptive snare that captures many in pits of despair.

Is all of this beyond repair?

Perhaps—to the extent that you’re aware.

How do you win in games of psychological warfare?

Prepare to be pulled into one-sidedness,

But continue moving where you allocate your care,

For finding bliss in either side would be remiss.

Before you dismiss, remember to give each cheek a kiss.

Psychological Pitfalls

I’ve noticed a common theme from the side that is trying to counter this movement about justice for George Floyd, specifically, and social justice and equality for systemically oppressed populations, generally. That is, I noticed a theme of one-sideness and selection bias being rampant.

For example, to the latter point, people are selectively choosing to focus their attention toward anything but the deep, painful, raw, and pervasive issue at hand; instead, people resisting this sort of societal change are gravitating toward anything that they can use as a suitable straw man. Therefore, their arguments are usually highly fallacious, so it is better to limit engagement in these psychological trenches so the forward momentum can remain unified and targeted on the true goal: Justice.

The former point of one-sideness is intertwined with the biased selectivity outlined above; however, it delves somewhat deeper into the human psyche. Cognitive dissonance is the state of holding two opposing beliefs simultaneously, and it is well-documented that this phenomenon influences a multitude of human behaviors, because it makes people so uncomfortable that they are motivated to seek change. Unfortunately, inherent to life is constant change. Therefore, trying to resolve the tension produced by opposing forces through fortifying, or doubling-down, on a single point or node that is polarized toward a specific side is ultimately self-defeating. It is as if one is so disturbed—and, consequently, dysregulated (out of balance)—that balance is subjectively restored through the solidification of a single position. Furthermore, this single position is then fallaciously used and treated as if it is inherently self-sufficient.

Let’s take an example to further illustrate what is being said by this point. Take the example of rigid and flexible. If I were to resolve the tension between these two opposing forces by deciding that rigidness is all that matters, then this would be an example of being one-sided. However, if I were to take one more movement in this cognitive direction and decide that I was so happy by the security and comfort from believing in only rigidness, then I can start to discredit the existence or the necessity of flexibility.

We should pause at this point. It is quite easy to carry on from this line of thinking, transforming into subsequent arguments; however, at this point in the example, we have reached a point where, if we were to proceed, it would be rooted in a false dilemma; that is, there is not an argument originating from categories that exist in pairs of opposites. To belabor this point further, one cannot start with a premise that is rooted in a belief that the end is better than the means; particulars are better than universals; permanence is better than change; product is better than process; and individual is better than social.

For any of the above examples, as well as any other family of oppositions, to proceed with an argument that one side is better or worse than the other is starting an argument from a false dilemma; therefore, nullifying any subsequent arguments, premises, or conclusions made after the fact.

Warning: Contains Political Content

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I have refrained from talking about the current political climate in America because the polarization of the “Us vs. Them” mindset seemed impossible to surmount. Out of fears of my inadequacies, I have chosen to remain silent, rationalizing to myself that my silence was justified: Peoples’ minds have chosen sides, and there is nothing that can be said or done to sway peoples’ opinions.

Upon recent reflection, I realized that I had let my cowardice get the best of me. Moreover, I discovered that within this presumption outlined above was the implicit acknowledgement of the “Us/Them” false dichotomy. However, even after this revelation, there still have been persistent beliefs within myself that allowed me to continue to bite my tongue: “You have nothing to offer, and, even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. No one would read it, even if they bothered to read it, it wouldn’t change their minds.” It was this last part that has compelled me to break my silence and finally write.

I am a counselor by trade, even so, it is still fascinating to discover irrational beliefs that produce internal (psychic) tension. The last part of this negative self-belief is where I illuminated a fundamental error in my line of thinking. Similar to the counseling process, the goal is not about changing someone’s mind, rather it is about providing new perspectives, experiences, reflections, etc. that further inquiry and help to refine and better define their beliefs, values, and aspirations.

Furthermore, this shift in my perspective about the starting point for political discussion has also allowed me to reflect upon the array of experiences I have been collecting. I am a member of groups and organizations that would be deemed “far-right,” as well as ones which lean towards the “far-left.” Initially, these group experiences produced a great sense of tension within me that was further exacerbated by the division being portrayed within the American news. However, through maintaining the delicate balance between being open-minded while, simultaneously, having the courage to hold to certain deeply held convictions, I have been able to resist the pull of absolutism; that is, the tendency to want to resolve my internal discomfort produced by the tensions of both sides and foreclose on one of them as the absolute truth and guiding principle that all people should adopt.

This has been a difficult endeavor to undertake, especially considering the political and cultural climate of America growing more rigid and extreme by the day. However, I am grateful for being able to be a part of the “in-group” for both groups of the left and the right, because it has allowed me to understand some of the more mundane experiences, issues, and concerns that are at the root of the larger movements and politics that flood the internet and media. It has provided me with faces and verbalized expressions of the people who hold certain ideologies, instead of the abstract, dehumanized, and dogmatic view of such ideologies that are often portrayed through media. The importance of the medium through which information is absorbed is often overlooked. When ideologies are provided, devoid of any relation to actual experience, it allows the individual’s assumptions, preconceptions, unconscious biases, and a host of other psychic content to be combined with their imaginative capacity. In turn, this perpetuates ideologies and beliefs as having a sort of life in and of themselves, outside of the lived experienced of individuals.

Moreover, this separation between ideologies and actual experiences is doing damage to our democracy, for many individuals have become so certain of the absolutism of their beliefs that there is no room for common ground. While the overt differences in beliefs are emphasized, the nuances within the ideologies of either side are overlooked or disregarded. Furthermore, these nuances have become beyond reproach, since they are entirely overshadowed by the perceived irreconcilable schism of the defining features of each ideology.

Therefore, the impetus for my writing about the topic of politics in America is to emphasize the aspects that are being overlooked. While the differences in ideologies and beliefs between the right and the left are being magnified–and, in fact, personified through the attack or defense of President Trump– the similarities of experienced shared by being a human being living in a world of struggle, change, uncertainty, with feelings of isolation, desire for belonging, and striving for purpose and meaning, are being entirely overlooked. Insofar, that these aspects that comprise life are being eliminated from communal discourse, unless both parties identify with one another politically and ideologically. This lack of communication between members of opposing sides will only deepen the divide that is already present, and it will erase the opportunity to live and interact as fellow citizens of a democracy, learning from one another and enriching each other’s lives through the sharing and celebrating of differences, as well as those of similarities.

A Self in Society

Conditioned to be polite,
We converse wearing our social decorum.
But, is this for us or for them?
Moreover, since when did disagreement become synonymous with intolerance –
If we all agree, will we still be free?
To some degree, it would appear that the fervent desire to unify as one
Is causing our nation to become undone.

With that said, there are issues on which we must agree:
Some form of common sense logic must be present as foundation to stand upon.
This does not dictate any issue,
Rather it provides us with a necessary tool to engage in discourse.
Embarking on these sorts of endeavors without common ground
is predestined to forever circle round and round.
Therefore, remember that it is okay to have some remorse;
It’s okay to change your mind in light of new evidence.
This is not something to feel ashamed of though –
It is, however, a test of letting go,
The pieces of one’s ego necessary for growth.
Through taking this oath,
One may become flexible enough to tolerate viewpoints of both.
This requires great vulnerability, and without this there is no true strength –
Only an inflated self-esteem kept afloat by the desperation of others
Who, too, refuse to change and prefer to remain the same.

This is the what it means to be enslaved to oneself, ensnared by pride.
Terrified to be denied, one chooses to continually lie.
For the sake of pride, one cannot hide;
Therefore, the fear of mortification leads to emotional amplification.
Allied together under a noble cause: Defend this nation, at all costs.
However, the lack of insight veils the perception of one’s self,
Instead, projecting outward blaming others for their rage.
Not knowing that it is a manifestation of residing in a cage of their own making.

Free Download: A Two Sided Truth

Four years ago, I published my first book A Two Sided Truth. The goal I had when constructing this book was self-healing. There had been a series of difficulties plaguing my life, as well as I was graduating college with no clear path for the future; so, I compiled together my poems, prose, and short stories that I had written throughout my college years and bound them together in one book.

It was a way to feel a sense of accomplishment and reflect on the creative works that I had conjured up. Though I am not a graphic designer by any stretch of the imagination, I also came up with the books cover art, which was an augmented picture of the river that ran behind the house I grew up in.

For all these reasons, the self-publication of A Two Sided Truth: An Anthology of a Human Experience is emotionally charged with both positive and negative emotions. However, I have decided to embrace my book, imperfections and all.

I hope that the words can comfort others in their walk through life. The Kindle version will be free to download on Amazon from July 11th to July 15th: https://amzn.to/2S6uNvI

God and Order

Our world is ruled by disorder. Ask a physicist why time is perceived as flowing in a direction and they will say it is due to entropy, which merely is a scientific way of saying disorder.

The universe is increasing in disorder (entropy), thus time appears to flow in the direction of past to future. In the past, there was less entropy and, therefore, more order. In the future, there is an increasing amount of disorder.

Take this from a cognitive perspective for a second. Your past is comprised of events that happened. They feel more concrete and solidly grounded in existence, because we know (or believe ourselves to know) that these certain events did in fact occur. Now, go the opposite direction and think towards the future. The future is ruled by probability. Thinking of the future from the present is like running probability simulations of what is likely, or possible, to happen in our lives.

The real question becomes: Why was there order to begin with?

In the opening lines of the Bible, it gives rise to the notion that, before there was light, there was a great void, formless and dark. In this primordial state, we find a state of complete individualization — even all the particles are in isolation, as to have yet formed a connective bond to one another.

It is this initial bond that fulfills the verse of “‘Let there be Light'” (Genesis 1:3).

A non-Biblical analogy is the science of your brain. Think to that first neural connection forming in a burst of energy. This initial burst of life cannot be understood, nor meaningfully explained. And, even if we somehow could meaningfully describe life itself, it would encapsulate all the words that have ever used to describe life. It would be all that ever was. Regardless of the mechanism of how, the result was that your brain formed neural connections and has continued to do so throughout your life forming neural networks.