Since either paradox or edge alone can provide more fun than anyone can stand (see November 2 and October 26 posts), the opportunities they might provide together may border on the sublime. Or the ridiculous.
Every paradox carries with it an edge—the tensions that arise when holding apparent contradictions simultaneously. Working on, at or with a particular edge inevitably brings us to, and requires us to work with, some paradox—an often disconcerting, frustrating and apparently irreconcilable set of facts or opinions.
Holding the paradox at our personal or professional edge requires the move from “either/or to both/and” perspectives. I believe those quoted words are overused and that they’re appropriate here. Your particular worldview and state of mind will determine how you respond to them along the continuum from, “du-uh, tell me something I don’t already know,” to “the prospect of ‘both/and’ simply can’t apply to what I’m dealing with right now.” Either response can be appropriate. Both are valid. And both are incomplete.
Half a lifetime ago I heard a gifted educator say publicly that he was both “pro-choice and pro-life” regarding abortion. My immediate inner response was that I aspired to what he said, but didn’t know how or if it was possible—I felt a powerful tension. His statement made sense to me, and in the moment I heard it, I did not know and was unable to feel how to manifest that sense. I was unable to hold the paradox.
I could, and won’t, write pages here about intention, language, meaning-making, context, and the respective blessings and curses of the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” positions. What I will say is that holding the “pro-choice/pro-life” paradox, once an apparently impossible task for me, is now a “comfortable” and essential worldview that embraces and transcends the dug-in positions on both sides of the issue and honors the underlying intentions of each—for me.
Holding paradox does not necessarily (and usually won’t) resolve an issue. What it does is open us up to a broader, deeper and more complex view of some person, issue, the world and/or ourselves—from which we are able to see and feel into more perspectives than we previously thought we could, behave in ways that had not previously occurred to us, and produce truly inspired outcomes.