I suppose that one unexpected advantage of jet lag is the possibility that you might wake up at the very end of a 4am thunderstorm and decide that — since sleep is not an option — you might as well enjoy the exceptionally rare weather by cycling to the Pakistan/India border.
And so I found myself on a 60KM journey to a village called Ghawindi, which I discovered is home to a very obscure and infrequently-visited border into India (pictured above).
Of course, it was much more about the journey itself, which was colored with incredible rays of sunshine, overhanging oak trees, small winding rivers, and some astonishing insights from the audiobook An Undivided Life: Seeking Wholeness in Ourselves, Our Work, and Our World by Parker Palmer.
Although it’s impossible to capture all the depth from this audiobook conversation, one incredible theme that weaved throughout the book was “the paradox of life.”
To help introduce this idea, Palmer shares a profound insight from the physicist and Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr:
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.
To give a simple example, Palmer poses two basic questions: Are human beings meant to be in community? And are we meant to be in solitude? The answer to both, of course, is yes.
And, of course, there are more complicated examples. Indeed, paradox seems to be a theme that we are continuously facing in an increasingly complex world. That there is unspeakable sadness but also unbelievable joy. That man is capable of causing deep pain and can also create profound beauty. That we might be irreparably heartbroken by the state of the world and also infinitely hopeful about the possibilities and progress.
In the words of Parker Palmer:
The paradox gets lived out. Only by a willingness to enter into darkness, to experience challenge, to take risks with all of their downsides, will we also know real joy… In order to really see the light, one must go deeply into the darkness.
He goes on to share a part of a poem from the beloved Mary Oliver:
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Of course, the irony of paradox was not lost as I approached the border of Pakistan and India, two countries with very complex, deeply rooted and often opposite narratives.
Although I obviously don’t have answers to our very global and very individual paradoxes, Parker Palmer shares an incredible insight: that we often like to categorize life into “either this or that” boxes, but that perhaps we should encourage ourselves to think about life through a “both this and that” lens. That perhaps this is a good first step towards navigating the paradox of life that we found ourselves in, and towards helping encourage a slightly more understanding and complete world.