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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.


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