“The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning.”
– Albert Camus
A paradox is a human using AI to define a paradox.
A paradox is, according to ChatGPT, “a statement, proposition, or situation that appears to be self-contradictory or logically absurd, but upon closer examination, reveals an underlying truth or logical coherence…[paradoxes] are not just logical curiosities but also tools that help us refine our understanding of complex concepts and the limitations of our knowledge.”
A paradox is a mind-full-ness practitioner mind-less-ly scrolling through the Internet reading about paradoxes and then writing an essay about it so that a Consciousness Explorers Club (CEC) could read it, whether via a mind-full or mind-less scrolling through—or by—the Internet.
A paradox is truly absurd. (Isn’t it?)
When it comes to absurdity I think immediately of Albert Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. Here we have a Greek god rolling a heavy-ass rock up a hill only to have it roll back down again, to start over and over, again and again. According to Camus, absurdity “is born of [the] confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.” “Paradox” originates from the Greek para, meaning “contrary to”, and doxa, “opinion”: a paradox is contrary to popular, commonly- and widely-accepted opinion. So perhaps the quest for enlightenment is the “pop” exploration for the CEC, and the paradox (or punk) herein would be that you can’t use CEC to find it.
Ain’t that the damnedest thing. We meditate so we can chill the F*&$ out when we are off the cushion, we love-hate the ego to transcend it, we are spiritual practitioners so that we can tell everyone in finance we’re better and they’re stuck in samsara because they have sold their soul to the economic devil. I am a Canadian-born Chinese descendant who receives traditional Chinese medicines from a white woman to heal ailments that my first-generation immigrant parents would have suggested I use many years ago, but I-rejected-as-a-child-because-good-god-I-need-to-fit-in-and-feel-accepted-but-if-my-body-isn’t-in-good-health-and-isn’t-alive-then-what-is-there-to-accept-anyway. I am a paradox.
“I” has always been a paradox. “I” meaning me, this person, in this body, an individual, a single unit, making decisions. “I” is physically comprised of only 43% human cells and more than 43% colonist microbes that make up what I call “I”; “I”, in fact, is more non-human than human. “I” is built on ideas by other “I’s”. “I” is also more-than-physical: I am Internetted with and represent myself through a 7-digit phone number, innumerable log-ins and passwords, photos on social media, and Apple i-products, without which “I” would not be able to interface and connect to the other “I’s” in the World, Wide, Web. “I” is inseparable and more than single and actually many things. “I”, according to the yogis, is actually nothing at all. Behind every breath, behind every thought, behind every story, memory, and narrative, is a silence that cannot be heard except when all else falls away. “I” is no-thing and in that “I” is every-thing: “I” is potential for all things.
There is something unsettling about a paradox. It lurks in the unseen shadows encircling the spotlight of pop opinion. It is the eternal tension that ruffles the confines of your skin while you wait for that beast in the dark to make itself known. It is a nostalgia of an unbearable and inevitable end, a psychic scent of impending break through. It is uncertain, unpredictable, and unstable footing. It is the power of cutting in the middle of a song before it gets to finish. It is confusion, ungraspable, the most playing-hard-to-get Hinge date that ghosts you when you thought your connection was just getting good. It is a person not texting you back when you just put your heart out there in a message you rigorously edited and word smithed 1008 times. It is waiting for a response after you spent all night crafting an email to your boss when you finally mustered up the courage to ask for a raise and, with even more courage, hit Send.
A paradox is the expectation of a relief that doesn’t come. “Herein lies the paradox”: a paradox is also an opportunity. It is an experiment that invites itself to be held and played with curiously. It is an invitation to sit with the not-knowing, and the you-must-know-but-you-will-never. It is a 5000-piece puzzle with a missing piece, a cliff-hanger with no landing, a problem with no solution (it will never have one). Perhaps the Lego set wasn’t meant to be built, it was meant to have every piece meticulously lost-and-found by a hungry search party in a newly created and different game altogether.
A paradox is everything non- and post-progressive. In a collective reality ruled by unsettling climate trajectories resulting from promises of modernity, neoliberal capitalism, colonial extraction and displacement, paradoxes matter. A paradox, to me, is everything non-human, non-dominant, non-common. A paradox does not mean an opposite. A paradox means the diverse spectrum of unsatisfying others and ungraspable ideas that, from where we stand in the position of common pop opinion, we could not possibly know. It is where things don’t seem to fit quite neatly and tidily in predefined categories and manipulatable boxes for our sense-making; it is postcolonial and the eternal outlier on the other side. A paradox is a moment of dismantling and if we can be with it long enough, something unthought of can emerge. But that “unthought of” is also an unfamiliar beast and a paradox is not trying to control or fix that beast, whether inside or outside. A paradox is not trying to change our external conditions to manipulate our internal ones. A paradox is acceptance. A paradox is starting over again and again, for the sake of a paradox.
Camus writes “the realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning.” A paradox is a portal into time stoppage, time slowage, maybe even time sewage. A paradox is the moment you realize everything you thought you knew was not only a lie, it never existed and you were the Creator. A paradox is also realizing that everything you thought you knew to be true was indeed a lie, and you were not the Creator. A paradox is a meaning I cannot make for you, judge in you, nor assert to you (or anyone else). There’s a paradox for me and a paradox for you. But what if the paradox is that the paradox for me is the paradox for you?
Well that’s just absurd.
*Pamela guides a weekly inward-looking meditative tour with The Path Unfolding, an open and exploratory occasion to indulge our curiosity, attune our senses, and notice what’s happening inside. She believes that “Practice is the stilling of the mind. But more than that, it is a personal experiment and exploration in how the skin we live in, the only mixed bag of muscles/bones, breath, emotions, memories, experiences we will ever live in, operates and communicates with us.” By sharing her own practice and experience, she is passionate about providing a space for others to experiment and explore themselves. She is consistently inspired by the infinite diversity of skins and selves she encounters.