Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On Contradictions

"When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, 
but bend them with gentleness and time." --St. Francis de Sales

The last week and a half has been filled with a few contradictions around here. On one hand there have been great ups--including an evening at the circus in which we took our 4-year old granddaughter for the first time. What fun. Her vocabulary through most of the evening consisted of the words "oh, wow!" at everything she saw. (That is, until she fell asleep during the second half, slumbering even through the roar of nine motorcycles in a cage. Now that's a real contradiction.) On the other hand, there have been a few downs. Like a computer that died. 

Not unexpected since we'd been having problems, and most of the important stuff had been backed up so that's a plus. And the new computer is a beauty--oh, wow!--but the learning curve is steep. Oh, my. More contradictions.

Contradiction: 1. the act of denying what has been said, saying the opposite; 2. a contrary condition, disagreement, opposition; 3. an inconsistency.

Joy and frustration, laughter and gritted teeth, play and work, smiles and frowns, successes and missed goals. The experience of the last few days led me to wonder what others have said about the subject of contradictions. A few gems for the writer in us:

"One of the things I constantly think about as a writer is the way in which people are full of contradictions--there's all this contradictory information inside a human personality." --Justin Cronin

"As human beings, of course, we're all compromised and complex and contradictory, and if a screenplay can express those contradictions within a character and if there's room for me to express them, that's a part I'd love to play, so much more than a character who is heroic and one-dimensional." --Hugo Weaving

"As a novelist, you could say that I am dreaming while I am awake, and every day I can continue yesterday's dream. Because it is a dream, there are so many contradictions and I have to adjust them to make the story work. But, in principle, the original dream does not change." --Haruki Murakami

"Biography--a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified." --Jose Ortega y Gasset

"The contradictions are what make human behavior so maddening and yet so fascinating, all at the same time." --Joan D. Vinge

"I'm fascinated by the ways in which people express themselves, because their responses are often counter to what they're actually feeling. Like when they're frightened, they tend to freeze. When they're angry, it doesn't always come out as volume. There are wonderful contradictions in the way that people express their emotions." --Edward Norton

"Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat." --Audre Lorde

Contradictions. What ones have you been living with, and how are you handling them?

Seems like "being plugged in" to the internet, social networking, and all the bells and whistles carries its own set of contradictions. We love the connections but find ourselves frustrated by the black hole of time and distractions that take us away from our work. Discussions on the subject have been popping up in various places recently. One brave soul has unplugged from it all and lives to tell about it. See Marissa Burt's post, "Unplugged," here at Project Mayhem. Is there hope for harmony after all?


  1. I don't know about contradictions, but I'm a great believer in the idea that it's the give and take, up and down, push and pull quality of life that makes it interesting -- and makes stories interesting as well. Those opposites are what turn into creativity.

  2. I haven't thought much about contradictions, which seems odd, now that I think about it, as I tend to be a black-and-white thinker. Rather, I think about ambiguities. I think ambiguities fill the space between the poles of contradictions. I like complexities, ambiguities and, I suppose, contradictions.

  3. Contradictions are what I pull into my stories to make them pop. The character who doesn't lie suddenly does -- that sort of thing. As for me, I try to be steadfast and not full of contradictions but I know I fail sometimes.

  4. Elizabeth, Cathy and Barbara: what a neat discussion going on here! "...opposites turn creativity on..." "...ambiguities fill the space between the poles of contradictions..." ...using contradictions help make stories "pop." All great insights. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the subject :-)

  5. I don't give contradictions much thought, but this post has given me lots to think about.

  6. I think contradictions are really important and agree completely with Barbara. Without contradictions, characters are too linear. They're not believable or nearly as interesting.