Examining Contradiction

Jun 9th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog

“Be joyful/though you have considered all the facts.”

As others have written, the tension in this sentence makes it really rich for interrogation. I’m really interested in the way Berry elicits joy in his readers even as he presents cold hard facts – we’ve seen this in several of his pieces, both in the poem and in the collection of essays. I also am interested in one line preceding this one:

“Expect the end of the world. Laugh.”

For me, both of these lines speak to the power to be found in deriving happiness from less-than-ideal circumstances. It is easy to be happy when everything is going swimmingly, and it is easy to be discouraged when things get tough. It is more difficult and, sometimes, more rewarding to be happy when the world is working against you. Although all experiences are important (and it’s completely valid to be happy in happy times and sad in sad times), the richest emotion is to be found in the areas of contradiction. There is no worse feeling of alienation than when you are sad and those around you are all happy, and being truly optimistic in sad times is incredibly empowering.

I think this follows in the same line of thinking that came up in our discussion about complexity last week. Ecological edges are rich and complex and diverse and important and stressful and vulnerable and unique. These are all words I would use to describe these contradictory emotions, as well. I would argue that in every field, ecology and psychology included, it is important not to shy away from complexity and contradiction and paradox, but to coax them out as much as possible to understand the really complicated ideas at play in our world and our minds.

2 Comments to “Examining Contradiction”

  1. Marissa Perez says:

    I really like how you brought in the preceding quote. I had forgotten to look back at that poem and that line really strikes a note for me. I love the simplicity in it. And I do like thinking of myself as an ecological edge or as having some of the same attributes as an edge. Thanks for making that connection!

    Also, Melancholia. Very bizarre movie and I would never have thought of it in this context, but it certaintly does connect.

  2. Anna Flinchbaugh says:

    Hmmm, we seem to have a lot of apocalyptic discussion going on in our responses! Thanks for bringing in Berry’s words on it, Eliza. I also really appreciate your emphasis on human emotion and the importance of maintaining our own little ecosystems, particularly in relation to our external surroundings. Have you seen the movie Melancholia? It’s a bit bizarre and – arguably – quite sad, but also has some really elegant depictions of those paradoxes.

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