Paradox is defined as something that would seem to contradict common sense, knowledge, or fact but is none-the-less true. It’s something which shouldn’t be. This contradiction in terms is found throughout the universe. What we perceive as being true is often conditionally true rather than empirically true. For instance, time is perceived to be passing at a steady coherent rate relative to the individual. Yet, time is also an illusion (depending on which scientist you ask.) It exists, but it doesn’t. It would seem to contradict the perception that time would be a human mental construct when it is so readily observable. But our perception is not always to be trusted.
Perception is a tool that gets a being from one point to the next physically, mentally,and symbolically. The sense data and processing we utilize every instant is vital to our very being. But, paradoxically, perception is also a tool, not only of delineation, but of creation. Our brains and sense organs are wired in specific ways to aid in our survival. This machine is built with specific perceptual functionality that intentionally orders thought in ways allowing for prime survival strategies. It doesn’t follow universal or natural law. It runs with a specific purpose. Our human machine not only perceives the world, it intentionally creates and re-creates the world around it. The mind drives and shapes reality even though this seems contradictory to its purpose and function. This machine functions through the exploitation of an active paradox. It sees what is out there and it creates what it sees.
In my life, two specific ideas demonstrate paradox; the first being a neurological disorder (ADD) which, by far, is the most interesting. Now, having Attention Deficit Disorder is not a paradox. It is a common neurological anomaly and such anomalies are statistically likely to occur due to diverse genetic codes. What is paradoxical is its uncanny ability to be both functionally advantageous and dysfunctional simultaneously. It would seem having a disorder of perception and processing that creates restlessness, lack of focus, hyper-focusing, poor sleep, eating issues, depression, impulsive behavior, forgetfulness, and an overall sense of disorientation would be nothing more than an impediment. But, having this disorder has afforded me the ability to process “large” thoughts and incredible volumes of data simultaneously. This has aided my ability to perceive different things about the world around me that others miss. I catch little things that seem unimportant. I see patterns everywhere because they stimulate my mind the way it craves. This dysfunctional level of brain activity causes the brain to pull in massive amounts of stimuli to alleviate the panic of falsely believing you aren’t processing enough information.
Many small benefits accompany the disorder as well. For instance, I’m great at trivia games and often have quick bursts of artistic motivation. The list goes on. While this ailment does have serious drawbacks, it has also created a very unique individual with the mental opportunity to see in ways others can not.
A second paradox involves my education. In our modern world, education is a vehicle for employment rather than enjoyment. It leads to careers or passions, but it is rarely done for pure mental enjoyment. Common sense dictates life’s endeavors should have specific purpose on either a micro or macro level relevant to our survival maintenance. I, however, have taken higher education as a means to fulfill intellectual desires. I took courses in undergraduate studies that interested me. In fact, I took more courses than needed in many areas that had only been base requirements. I enrolled in extra psychology courses, media classes I didn’t need, and art courses that went beyond the electives necessary to fulfill the degree program. My major wasn’t in any of those areas.
I majored in Theology and minored in Philosophy which don’t have an abundance of career paths outside of ministry,writing, or teaching. And, as I looked to graduate school years later, I chose a liberal studies program that allowed me to learn whatever I wanted to learn. I am studying things that interest me for the sake of enjoyment. In fact, I enrolled in grad school on a whim at work one day. I hadn’t even seen the campus. I did everything online and over the phone just because I wanted to feel happy and accomplished again. And I did this with only a very general intention of leading to any specific job based outcome. But, in the greatest paradox of my educational career, this approach led me to new opportunities that would never have happened if I followed the common sense approach. I’ve networked with professors that will be able to help me pursue my goal of teaching at the collegiate level and to work toward the possibility of my writing being published. My well-rounded personality and education made me a better writer, leader, father, and person. The opportunities to be an important member of the academic world and work as a teacher and writer and general renaissance man have all come as a result of my desire to learn for the sake of learning. My life, though it follows a paradoxical path, is far better for being contradictory.
Paradox is not just something for brain teasers and confusing questions about quantum physics. It’s something that can be an indicator of new possibilities and perspectives. What we perceive as being true is not always the same as what CAN be true. The creative mind is one willing to deny the indoctrination of social constructs and the prison of reality as a finite concept. In the end, the thing that should not be may very well become exactly what things ought to be. Our perception allows us to continue being alive but paradox might just be the tool that allows us to truly live.