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Of dualities, contradictions and the nonduality

[ by Charles Cameron — on the basis, the mathematics, the essence of conflict and resolution ]


This DoubleQuote features two great masters on duality and the coincidentia oppositorum: the upper quote is Yogi Berra at his best, a koan worthy of a discourse by John Daido Loori, Roshi, while the lower image a still from Andrei Tarkovsky‘s first feature film, Ivan’s Childhood — which I stole from the ever-bountiful Gwarlingo.

Two is one and one is all and evermore shall be so.


Two into one won’t go, they told me in my schooldays — though not with nearly as much rigor as I presume is found in this article in Physics B

Questions of the two and the one are always of interest, because they are played out in the tensions we are faced with in daily life, and specifically in the tug of war with peace.

Thus, from my miscellaneous readings these past few days, they feature everywhere from a headline like Demonizing Edward Snowden: Which Side Are You On? in the New Yorker, who seem to feel that one should take a side, preferably the one with the least guns:

I’m with Snowden — not only for the reasons that Drake enumerated but also because of an old-fashioned and maybe naïve inkling that journalists are meant to stick up for the underdog and irritate the powerful. On its side, the Obama Administration has the courts, the intelligence services, Congress, the diplomatic service, much of the media, and most of the American public. Snowden’s got Greenwald, a woman from Wikileaks, and a dodgy travel document from Ecuador. Which side are you on?

to some relatively arcane areas of theological debate, in this case Fussing Over the 15th of Sha‘ban:

Question: Is marking out the 15th night of Sha’ban (laylat al-nisf min sha’ban) with extra prayers and devotion sanctioned by Islam, or is doing so judged to be a reprehensible innovation (bid’ah)?

Answer: Each year, a fair amount of fussing and fighting takes place over this issue. Yet the truth of the matter is that scholars have long-held this issue to be one over which there is a valid difference of opinion. The first group considered the night to have no specific virtues over and above any other night of the year, and believed that singling the night out for extra acts of worship is unsanctioned. Another group begged to differ and held that the middle night of Sha’ban does possess special merits and should be earmarked for extra prayers and devotion.

All those who hold the shari’ah to lack nuance and variety, incidentally, would do well to note (a) that it is far from exclusively devoted to the chopping off of hands or feet, and (b) combines within itself debates worthy of the Tannaim and Amoraim, or of the medieval scholastics of the Roman church…


By way of closure, here’s the koan from Alice in Wonderland that Loori Roshi studies in his discourse:

The caterpillar said, “One side will make you grow bigger, and the other side will make you grow smaller.” “One side of what? The other side of what?” thought Alice to herself. “Of the mushroom,” said the caterpillar. Alice looked at the mushroom, trying to make out which were the two sides of it, as it was perfectly round.

If you love your enemies [Matthew 5.44], Who’s side are you on?

And here’s what the great Cardinal Nicholas Cusanus had to say about dualities and opposites in his Of the Vision of God:

I have learned that the place wherein Thou art found unveiled is girt round with the coincidence of contradictories, and this is the wall of Paradise wherein Thou dost abide

3 Responses to “Of dualities, contradictions and the nonduality”

  1. Mr. X Says:

    Here’s a duality for you, in terms of Civil War 2.0 psychological preconditioning:



  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Stopping in briefly to give you a para of Zeynep Tufekci’s latest blogpost, “Come, Come, Whoever You Are.” As a Pluralist Movement Emerges from Gezi Park in Turkey, which uses a bit of sociological jargon — she’s a sociologist, after all — but turns it on its head:

    In sum, in Turkey, there is no political party or institutional infrastructure which reflects this generation or this emerging pluralism. In fact, people often call this “Gezi ruhu” or “spirit of Gezi” to try to find a name for this unprecedented political coalescence.
    I have come to think of this moment as an anti-postmodern pluralism. Unlike early stage (or, well, “traditional”) postmodern approaches, the “other” is not configured as an opaque, unknowable, “outside” entity. There is multitude but there is also unity and a unifying grand narrative–a unity that is based on empathy rather than a single model of the desirable. The “other” is knowable through common human experience and suffering.

    And you see the  “multitude but there is also unity” here — in some ways it’s the sore insight around which her entire piece revolves. Elegant — that’s the second time I’ve found that word applicable to a blog post today — and I’ve barely finished my second coffee.
    Her whole piece is illuminating on the situation in Turkey.

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Ahdaf Soueif, in Egypt after the revolution: curfew nights and blood-stained days, commenting on Egypt:

    Everywhere the binary that the revolution so roundly rejects is being restated: the police state or the Islamists. We continue to reject it. I’ve always written that the police state is the enemy. Now I know that the Brotherhood, too, is the enemy. Their ideology, their world vision – as it stands – cancels out my existence. They will have it so; they will not make room for anyone else, they will exclude me in every way possible – even if it means killing me. They have already excluded me from the kingdom of heaven

    That phrase, “curfew nights and blood-stained days”, btw, would make a cool addition to my collection of “DoubleQuotes in the Wild“.

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