Sunday, January 6, 2013

"By proving contraries, truth is made manifest"

If you've ready any of my other posts responding to/commenting on the writing of Eugene England then you know I love his thoughts on contraries.

Hence the quote from the prophet Joseph Smith that is serving as the title for this post:
By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.
England explains this, writing that "tragic paradox lies at the heart of things and that life and salvation, truth and progress, come only through anxiously, bravely grappling with those paradoxes, both in action and in thought" (Dialogues with Myself ix).

T. Givens gives an example of this, explaining in The God Who Weeps, that obedience to God “is our way of displaying trust in His counsel, and faithfulness effects the gradual change of heart and mind that moves us forward. The lovely paradox of willing compliance with what an ancient prophet called “The great plan of happiness,” is that conformity to law breeds both freedom and individualism. We may think a leaping child, in the euphoria of his imagination, enjoys unfettered freedom when he tells us he is going to land on the moon. But the rocket scientist hard at work in the laboratory, enmeshed in formulae and equations she has labored to master, and slaving away in perfect conformity with the laws of physics, is the one with true freedom: for she will land on the moon; the boy will not (Kindle Edition Loc 1850).

It is only by embracing the paradox of freedom through conformity that true liberations comes. It is only by engaging in the cognitive dissonance of contraries and continuing to choose faith that progress is made.

This is in part because it is through fundamental opposition that this earth life makes salvation possible. We are part of a world that is "full of opposites, paradoxes, incompletions -- all of which cause pain and loss as well as make passible struggle and growth and joy" (Dialogues with Myself x).

It is also because we must experience the darkness in order to independently and completely choose the light. My roommate quoted this one day while we were discussing something along these lines:
"God works by contraries so that a man feels himself to be lost in the very moment when he is on the point of being saved." --From Martin Luther's 95 theses.
We grow through contraries, but we are also empowered through them. When we feel the most lost, confused, conflicted, and all but overcome by the incongruity of things before us AND THEN STILL choose faith and obedience, we reach a kind of transcendence -- a special communion with the Lord as we are made holy -- and find ourselves choosing to conform to the very conditions that empower us.
"And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same" (D&C 88:34)
The keeping of law makes us holy, it sanctifies us -- and the Lord has promised:
"Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power" (D&C 43:16)
Every moment of paradox and contradiction is an opportunity to yield our hearts to God (Helaman 3:33-35). They are the setting in which we choose time and time again to maintain our integrity in a context where the options before us cannot be easily and rationally resolved.

To go back to something I've quoted on this blog before:
I am convinced that there must be grounds for doubt as well as belief, in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and therefore the more deliberate, and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. The option to believe must appear on one’s personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension. One is, it would seem, always provided with sufficient materials out of which to fashion a life of credible conviction or dismissive denial. We are acted upon, in other words, by appeals to our personal values, our yearnings, our fears, our appetites and our ego. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is in the final analysis an action that is positively laden with moral significance (T. Givens qtd. from an article by Boyd Peterson).
Something to remember. By proving myself in the contraries of my life, the truth of who I am and what I love is made manifest.

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