“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am vast. I contain multitudes.” Walt Whitman wrote these words in Song of Myself and I return to them when I am feeling guilty and confused about my contradictions and inability to be consistent. Some days I can’t even write, my internal voice is so darkly analyzing about the contradictions I am living. I know I am not the only one. How can I speak to you, dear one, who also battles the chasm inside yourself of who knows what- everyone’s situation is unique.
I am forcing myself to write today, to catch myself from tumbling into the abyss of the endless void of uncertainty and confusion. Maybe you are reading to hold yourself afloat in the liminal space before you find your footing again in some kind of temporary certainty and comfort. The mind is always grasping for Knowing, Certainty, for some form of Solid Ground.
Contradiction defined: statements, ideas, or features of a situation that are opposed to one another. Its root is contrast. Indeed, contradictions are natural- look at where the mountains meet the sea; the day opposed to night; tsunamis arise out of the peaceful ocean waves. Our Mother Earth is full of contradictions!
My contradictions roam in various territories. The biggest one is feeling guilty over having so much, knowing that because of my privileges, the majority of the people in the world go without. I am using more than my fair share of earth’s finite resources, and I am contributing to the climate crisis. It wouldn’t be possible for every person to live with the material comforts and abundance that I do. Any in-depth look into the distribution of the world’s resources reveals that it is a very few who use up a very lot, and there is not enough to go around to make it equal, even if we wanted to. Although climate justice is my greatest concern for the future, I am still driving my car, using a cellphone, going out to eat, buying and using appliances, flying on airplanes, using single-use plastics and on and on. I try and minimize these actions but my footprint is still Huge! I am entrenched in the very system I hope to unravel!
Yet simultaneously I am filled with gratitude for all that I have. I am overwhelmed with the blessings of material comfort and enjoyment I have in my life. How do I grapple with this feeling, this bottomless pit of contradiction inside my soul, of living the oxymoron of the modern day?
I am unashamed to admit my shame for being a white/privileged/woman/land owner/employer/American sas. I am unapologetic for how sorry I feel that we can misunderstand one another repeatedly and therefore continue to create disconnect from our own self, from each other, from the elements, from our food, from the very land and water that is keeping us alive.
I also live inside the contradiction of staying busy when I believe it is imperative for my health and the health of the world to slow down. I am caught in a hamster wheel of go go go and the times I am able to get out, some centrifugal force pulls me back in before I can really make slowing down a reality. The powers at play called capitalism have done a superb job at making this so.
I am an introvert leading a life of an extrovert. I hear this is called being an introverted extrovert. Whatever.
I love to share. I love to connect. I love being seen for who I really am. I love seeing others for who they really are. I am deeply passionate about standing up for earth mother and her non- human children (as well as her human ones.) Therefore, I put myself out there far beyond my comfort zone, over and over again, when I could easily retreat into a mountain side.
Do you contradict yourself?
Another way I see myself caught in contradiction is saying one thing, yet doing the other. I am a human making mistakes. And it is also because I am a Syncretic. I combine different beliefs and varying schools of thought, whether they be spiritual, political or social, and sometimes those beliefs are not in cohesion. Or rather, they haven’t quite integrated yet and in the integration process, I grok what parts I didn’t grasp before and therefore change my way of being, or what I am saying, or the choices I am making, or what practices I have in place. Gandhi wrote in one of his books that if the reader finds his message to be contradictory, to please adhere to whatever he said most recently, as he is always learning and therefore adapting his perceptions and teachings.
This reminds me that because we all carry contradiction, we don’t need to wait to be a master to teach. One must remain teachable to be a good teacher. My teenager friend once said to me, “A girl who doesn’t change her mind doesn’t have one.”
Oh how I love this gift of writing, of finding resolve to my own internal struggles, by talking to myself through the written word. In this process, I remember that all contradictions are not bad. In fact, being so contradictory means I am alive and growing. Evolving. Thank goodness. I do not want to grow stale and fixed and stagnant. That stinks, literally.
We are both earth and sky. At any moment we can inhale and get personal, and exhale and get cosmic. I am everything inside of me and completely dependent on everything outside of me. From earth back to star, help me walk my talk, not be a hypocrite, but remain vast, and full of multitudes.