Peace & Joy

The way out is in & the way in is out.

par·a·dox (noun): a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

Consider the statement: peace is found in the tension of paradox.

How can peace exist within contradiction?

How is it that some people can be poor and have joy or suffer great pain and still bring smiles to others? I contend that they've found peace in the paradox that while some days are good and some days are not, they do not have to lose themselves to the moment.  

Sometimes life is good and everything seems to be going our way and at other times nothing seems to work. We have all experienced this to one degree or another. 

old farmer.jpg

There is an ancient story of an old farmer who finds a beautiful white horse. His neighbors marvel at his good fortune. However, one day the horse went missing and all his neighbors tell him how unlucky he is to have lost such a wonderful animal. The old farmer's response, with a shrug of the shoulder, was that he didn't know whether he was unlucky or lucky, these things just happened.

The story continues that the horse comes back but it brings along six more horses and his neighbors then tell him how blessed he must be. Again, he shrugs and tells them that he doesn't know whether he is lucky or not, it,s just what happened. One day, his son is riding the horse and falls off, breaking his leg.  Since the old man is weak and cannot work the farm by himself, his neighbors once again tell him how unfortunate this is. The old man humbly replies, "Whether I am lucky or unlucky I cannot say, all I know is that this horse showed up, it ran away, six others came back, and then my son fell off, it's just what happened." 

A few weeks later, the rulers of the land enter a great war and collect all of the able-bodied young men of the village, except for the old man's son because of his leg. The neighbors then exclaim how lucky he must be! He replies, again, that it's just what happened.

Days and months go by as the old farmer continues to live his life. Some days the sun is hot and some days it is bitter cold. Every now and then the weather is just right. 

One day the old man passes away and the neighbors rush to the man's son saying how unfortunate this must be, just when everything was going so well! The young man quietly leads the neighbors to the room where the old farmer lays. 

What they experience amazes them, they are struck by a faint but glowing smile on the old man's face as they suddenly remember his response to life's ever-changing circumstances. 

Sometimes it rains and sometimes the sun shines. Sometimes loved ones are born and loved ones pass away. Sometimes we step forward and other times we step backwards. Sometimes we feel good and sometimes we feel bad. 

Peace and joy are found within us, in between the ups and downs, when and if we know where to look. If we don't know who we are, we are more likely to lose ourselves and our contentment in the ever-shifting waves of life. 

There is another story from long ago, from a time before man, when the gods were discussing where to hide the secret of peace and joy. They did not want humanity to find it before it could be appreciated. There was a great debate about where to hide it so that when it was found, humans would be content. One of the gods suggested "We should hide it at the peak of the highest mountain." After some discussion it was determined that it would be found too fast, too simply, too motivated by the greed of man. They also discussed the deepest forest, the deepest sea, and the hottest desert, all with the same conclusion. Then, the wisest god, who had been mostly silent up to this point, stood up and proclaimed that he knew where to hide it.  Everyone turned and looked in expectant curiosity. He slowly and calmly said, "Hide it in the human heart, that is the last place they will look." All of the gods agreed and to this day it is the only place to find peace and joy.

The idea of finding peace within paradox is a personal and professional philosophy which guides me. There are many examples of this. Another one of my favorites comes from the Latin phrase "festina lente," which translates as "make haste slowly" or "more haste, less speed."  

This is the story of the tortoise and the hare.

How can it be that the slow tortoise beats the speedy hare? 

Sometimes, the fastest way forward is to slow down. Sometimes, the way out of a problem is to go into it. Sometimes, the way to discover what is going on inside of us is to look at the outside messengers. 

How can you truly know what is wrong if you do not first know what is right? 

This is what I mean when I say that to get out of a problem, it is helpful yet paradoxical, to go inside of ourselves and discover who we are, gaining clarity on how to then get out of it.  

Likewise, to gain the clarity of understanding ourselves and our problems, it's helpful to look outside ourselves to learn what messages and lenses we use to interpret and perceive the circumstances of our life. 

I hope you find peace and joy in the paradox of life.