I was deeply moved when I saw Avatar today. It contains many of the ideas I’ve been working through in my head and experiencing in paddy fields and on the street. I’ll expand on that further, but first there’s one idea at the foundation. That everything is founded on contradictions. That the most important things in life seem to be in two states, often warring. That rather than divide and explain, these contradictions must be accepted for anything to be understood.
I don’t know if this makes sense. It makes sense in my head, but that’s a web of experiences and information, inchoate and incomplete. I am basically becoming of the opinion that contradictions are true. Not in the binary sense of On/Off, but in the unitary sense of, well, Om.
Many things can be two states at once, in fact they are, and that their being one or the other is largely a function of our observation. I think this has some backing in physics. Hence, zero and infinity have a unity, they are both awesome and complete. On an experiential level, absolutely nothing and absolutely everything feel very much the same. Death and life, too, are united. Eating, breathing and puberty (sex) kill us, but also keep us alive. We experience this personally and through art as the sublime. Love and loss. Creation and destruction, etc.
I have found a thought, Govinda, which you’ll again regard as a joke or foolishness, but which is my best thought. It says: The opposite of every truth is just as true! That’s like this: any truth can only be expressed and put into words when it is one-sided. Everything is one-sided which can be thought with thoughts and said with words, it’s all one-sided, all just one half, all lacks completeness, roundness, oneness. When the exalted Gotama spoke in his teachings of the world, he had to divide it into Sansara and Nirvana, into deception and truth, into suffering and salvation. It cannot be done differently, there is no other way for him who wants to teach. But the world itself, what exists around us and inside of us, is never one-sided. A person or an act is never entirely Sansara or entirely Nirvana, a person is never entirely holy or entirely sinful.
It does really seem like this, because we are subject to deception, as if time was something real. Time is not real, Govinda, I have experienced this often and often again. And if time is not real, then the gap which seems to be between the world and the eternity, between suffering and blissfulness, between evil and good, is also a deception.” (Hesse)
This idea, I think, has some support in modern science, specifically Einstein’s special relativity and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. This is obviously a gross simplification, but time is relative and much of our reality is literally defined by our observation. Applied physics, grounded in true/false binary logic works fine for most our lives (flying for example) but it breaks down and high or low levels, hence the modern gap between theories of the very big and very small. When it comes to the depth of human experience, however, binary logic is not enough. It’s a lot more complicated than flying.
I think this is something that philosophy, mostly Eastern, has already explored. In practice it means, well, this
To thoroughly understand the world, to explain it, to despise it, may be the thing great thinkers do. But I’m only interested in being able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it and me, to be able to look upon it and me and all beings with love and admiration and great respect. (Hesse)
I’m not saying that love is the grand unifying theory of physics, but I am beginning to dig the ‘hippie’ side of things. In the sense that there are no sides at all. It is possible for something to be two things at once. Indeed, it seems that most important things in life are. Right and wrong, life and death, the putrid and the divine. I experience this keenly in India. To get to the most beautiful spots in nature I have to burn petrol and spend time in hideous bus transport towns. It’s like I need to destroy beauty in order to experience it. This is just one contradiction, but it’s one I’d like to explore further. The tension between the natural and the artificial, and its resolution in acceptance. This is, in many ways, what I got out of the movie Avatar.