Skip to main content

On Opposites

Are there really opposites in the world?

To be sure, we are abound with phenomena which answer yes. Day and night, life and death, pleasure and pain, good and evil, etc. Nothing could be more obvious than the difference between such poles; and obviously, we tend to favor one pole over the other, depending on the value it has for our enjoyment and pleasure. Thus we prefer light, life, pleasure and goodness over their counterparts. Science also insists that for every force there is an opposite equal reaction. I think it was Parmenides who first divided the world into two in his mythical poem when he delineated between Being and Nothing. Ever since, we have thought in twos and have been wary of mixing them up.

But say we try to take a step back from our natural attitude and see it all over again. What do we actually experience? That in between these poles of opposites there are infinite gradations or "levels," if you wish, which either tend to one pole or in balance between them. Imagine an indivisible and continuous spectrum spanning between the two poles, like a rainbow. And in that example, there is really no division of colors as we have conceived it (red, orange, yellow, etc.). Because of its indivisibility (meaning, you cannot pick one part and say this is "really" yellow whereas the part beside it would be yellow-orange, and the next orange, etc.), one cannot really mark out one true and real color from the spectrum (even if, say, you invent more intermediate names for colors). It is only by virtue of reason's demand to idealize and compartmentalize these colors into something it can qualify that we say we see seven colors in the rainbow whereas in fact, there are an infinite number of colors in that spectrum. The point: there are no divisions, and if there are no divisions, there are no opposites.

The same goes with all the opposites we know. There are no such opposites but only gradations. No real or pure light, life, pleasure or goodness as there is no pure darkness, death, pain and evil. What then is real? That everything is chiaroscurro: a play of light and darkness. And in this play, no one knows who finds the truth or the real.

What about Being and Nothing--aren't they mutually exclusive and do not allow gradations? Sure they do. Heraclitus already said that all is Becoming.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Fields of Amorsolo

The first National Artist in Philippine history, referred to warmly as the “Grand Old Man of Philippine Art,” Fernando Amorsolo (1892–1972) still stands today as a looming figure in Philippine art responsible for being one of the artists who helped define what we up to now visually imagine as essentially Filipino. The images of rural life, of golden fields below clear blue, blue skies; the smiles of farmers which diminish their weariness as they plant, harvest, and winnow rice;most especially the iconic figure of the Filipina maiden working in the fields—the beloved dalagang bukid--; these, I believe, even after generations of Filipino painters since Amorsolo, have remained in our hearts and memory. Amorsolo did what great masters do for their country: bestow upon it its own icons, represent its native beauty, that is, to give its people and lands an identity and a face. There are, however, as many intentions for art as there are works of art. And these intentions will always remain in…

Without Why (The Rose) II

Lifetime is a child at play; moving pieces in a game.
Kingship belongs to the child.

Heraclitus, Fragment 52


The child at play never asks itself why it plays. The child just plays; and if it could, it will play as long as possible, it will play throughout its life. See its delight and witness its smile.

If it would never go hungry or if the sun would never set it too will never leave its playmates and playthings. Time flies at play because it stops or suspends time. Time -- as we grownups only know too well -- is the culprit for order, schedules and priorities; yet for the child, there is no time, there is only bottomless play. It is we who impose that this or that should be done at this or that time. We stop the absurd and supposedly endless play ("He does nothing but play") because we insist that discipline, order and priorities be instilled in the child at an early age ("He needs to learn other things beside playing"). So that the child will become like us one da…

A Love Sooner than Later

BROWN PENNY William Butler YeatsI whispered, 'I am too young,' And then, 'I am old enough'; Wherefore I threw a penny To find out if I might love. 'Go and love, go and love, young man, If the lady be young and fair.' Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, I am looped in the loops of her hair. O love is the crooked thing, There is nobody wise enough To find out all that is in it, For he would be thinking of love Till the stars had run away And the shadows eaten the moon. Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, One cannot begin it too soon.

*
One cannot begin to love too soon--conversely, one should not love too late or in life's demise. That waiting for the "right time," or the "right person" to love, what are these but the cries or sighs of an unready, even tired, heart? One becomes ready only when one begins to understand love slowly (or again), and one understands love progressively when one, simply, performs the act of love. Love, like mos…