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Paradox Definition Distilled and Its Impact on You

By Conscious Owl | Inner Peace

Aug 05
paradox definition

In ancient times, anyone who wished to enter the imposing temple at the top of the hill and reach the innermost sanctum of Truth had to pass through the gate guarded by two forbidding figures, usually a pair of lions.

One embodied contradiction, the other paradox. You didn’t have a chance of arriving at Ultimate Reality without transcending, even losing, your mind.

What Is Paradox?

Paradox comes from the Greek word paradoxon, meaning outside or beyond prevailing opinion or belief. This concept is more challenging than contradiction, in that it points to a real possibility, not just some verbal or logical trick.

A paradox is a person, condition or action that can’t be, but actually IS. You can’t simply walk away from it. You’ve got to deal with it. Paradox is built into the very condition of being human.​

Let’s look at some paradox examples:​

  • All the cells in our body are constantly changing. They are born, and then they die. Then new cells are born, and then they die. It used to be thought that every seven years we have a brand new body. Now it is nearly certain it is every single year. How then, insofar as you have a body, can you be the same person this year as you were last year?
  • The great Romantic poet, William Wordsworth wrote that “Child is father of the man.” How can this be? Children don’t usually beget men. There is a deeper meaning, in that every man was first a child. So this child is father of the man, who, in turn, begets yet another child.
  • The classic sci-fi film, Back to the Future, has the protagonist, Marty McFly, drive himself back into the past with a DeLorean time machine only to meet his father and mother before they were married. Marty is warned by “Doc” Emmet Brown to avoid interfering with mom and dad meeting each other, lest he cease to be. If his father and mother never come together, there will be no Marty McFly. Of course, in the plot, Marty’s mother falls in love with him, rather than his actual father, immensely complicating the story to our great delight.  Here is a brief video that explains the Grandfather Paradox:

Here is a brief video that explains the same concept differently:

  • It is often found among both entrepreneurs and executives that the harder you work, the less you produce. This is because your efficiency drops beyond a certain point. You might even do irreparable damage to your health.
  • Physicists have suggested that there is vastly more dark matter and energy than we find in the visible Universe, even though the reach of the galaxies appears infinite. What is more, cutting-edge science suggests that there is no such thing as time and space, that these are ultimately constructs of our mind. Yet we can barely speak without assuming time and space are the foundation of our reality.

Why Infinite Paradox?

We may wonder why we even have to deal with paradox, why our senses are misleading, and our reasoning is fallible and limited. The answer lies in the major traditions, cutting-edge science and the mystical experience.

Faith postulates that there is an order of reality beyond the senses, which is senior to the world of the senses. The invisible is more real than the visible.

Modern science has shown us that our Earth is not flat, even though it looks that way to us, that the Earth actually spins around the sun, even though the opposite seems to be the case. It has even shown that we have no tiniest particle in our bodies, and the particles, themselves, are more like waves than particles.

Mysticism reveals that all is ONE, that when I get in touch with who I am, and you get in touch with who you are, we will encounter the same Self. This is more than just a theory. It is the direct experience of many who plunge into meditation and other disciplines.​

How Does This Apply to You?

We live in a paradoxical Universe. Every day you run into paradox without recognizing it. If you are like most of us, it is far more comfortable to believe what you have always believed than it is to open up and question everything. However, if you don’t acknowledge the way things are, you may end up living a lie.

Related article: Your Perception of Reality Is Holding You Back​

Life can have a purpose, and you can even fulfill your destiny, but you will never entirely figure it out. Life is not logical. Life just IS.  As Jose Ortega Y Gasset put it, “Life is fired at us point blank.”

The possibility then arises for you to join the great artists, poets, scientists and mystics and relish paradox. Not only will you find it illuminating, but also fun.

Zen gives us the delightful story of a monk asking his master, Joshu, “Do I have Buddha Nature?” Joshu responded, “Mu,” which has much the implication of our word, “No.” The monk is dismayed. “You said dogs have Buddha nature. Then why not me?” Joshu quipped, “Because you ask all these silly questions!”


About the Author

One conscious owl to another... sharing what we learned over the years, and from many wise owls before us.