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oppositesIf I had to name one dilemma I meet again and again in my intimate dealings with families of patients, with coworkers and dear friends, it’s that of dualities — where someone says something like: I would like to do this, but find that that gets in the way. Or, if I were to follow this path, then I’d have to abandon that one. Always choices between what appear to be irreconcilable opposites. [I too am frequently caught in such binds.] As a consequence, a hightened sense of stress and frustration leaves us feeling trapped and helpless. Sounds familiar at all?

Buddhist teachings have much to offer on the topic of dualities and I’ll say more in coming days. To begin the exploration we find valuable clues in, of all places, economist E. F. Schumacher’s classic text, Small is beautiful–

Through all our lives we are faced with the task of reconciling opposites which, in logical thought, cannot be reconciled … How can one reconcile the demands of freedom and discipline … ? [We can] do it by bringing into the situation a force that belongs to a higher level where opposites are transcended: the power of love …

Divergent problems, as it were, force us to strain ourselves to a level above ourselves; they demand, and thus provoke the supply of, forces from a higher level, thus bringing love, beauty, goodness and truth into our lives. It is only with the help of these higher forces that the opposites can be reconciled in the living situation.

source: Schumacher, E.F. (1973). Small is beautiful: economics as if people mattered. New York: HarperCollins, pp. 97-98. image:


One response »

  1. Duality exists everywhere, between cultures, as in eastern and western, or healthcare approaches such as western medicine, traditional chinese medicine or many other complimentary approaches.

    This sense of opposites, differing ways of thinking or acting challenges us and enriches our lives.


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