paradoxes (& things)
28 November, 2007 by Miranda Ward
Earlier today, in class, I had a minor philosophical crisis relating to paradoxes. I had written, you see, a line which ended with the two words: “more whole.” Something like, “having homes in many places makes me more whole,” although it was more nicely put than that (I believe I may even have been rather proud of the line). I was sort of basking in the afterglow of having written it, and he, a colleague, said, “you can’t really be more whole.” I said, “it’s a paradox, it doesn’t have to make sense–” and he said, “that’s a really bad response.” (Something also to do with the fact that it took be about an hour to think it up).
Which of course it is, except that I know paradoxes are composed of ideas that are seemingly contradictory. Mathematically, yes, you can’t be more whole. I know this–I hadn’t considered it when I wrote the line in question, but I do know it, it’s instinctive, it’s basic. Yet isn’t there a sense in which you can have a feeling of wholeness, a sense of it, and then discover that in fact what you thought to be wholeness was merely an illusion, that you have more depth yet to fill, and whatever made you discover this has, in some strange way, therefore made you more whole?
And perhaps you aren’t even completely whole then, but you are more whole, because you are closer to whole. Whole, perhaps, is an unattainable, in its truest sense. What I meant, when I wrote that I felt “more whole”, was not that I felt I had reached that unattainable. What I think I meant was that I felt fuller, richer inside. It was a simple idea, and I had to go and complicate it with tricky words and paradoxes.
More paradoxes? The stretching of time: you wait, for what seems an unbearable interlude; it has been a long journey, the longest journey–and then one day you wake up and it is almost over–oh happy thought! And in tandem with that happy thought you wonder: how did it go so fast? When all the while, during the waiting, you had been thinking my god, this time crawls by so slowly!
Alas there will be no great celebration in two weeks, though perhaps there should be–no celebration except great relief. I will graduate quietly: without gown, or cap, or kilt, or party dress. No ceremony, no eggs, flour, champagne (ah how I’d love to be doused with champagne in cold Boston winter–what a sight on the streets! but very probably I’d be shortly thereafter arrested, and that would not make a very fine start to my post-university life). I realize this is the nature of the system: save $12,000, miss the damn party. Worth it, hands down. But there is a small part of me that is afraid to be let out into the world without a $12,000 party: otherwise, on what event can I look back upon to say: this was the culmination of my undergraduate studies?
I am mostly un-sentimental about leaving here. I did have a moment, over the weekend, walking home from the Back Bay (I spent the night on a very gracious friend’s couch, after we’d had too much wine and pizza and I’d missed the T) on a Sunday morning. It was gloriously sunny out, not too cold (I might have thought that because of my enormous coat, however) but crisp; and I reached the edge of the public garden and began to walk through it, and all the leaves were still on the ground in great yellow-and-red heaps, fluttering with a wind coming off of the river. And I stood in a patch of sun-and-shade, and thought: oh! I’ve lived here for four years, and been in this park more times than I can remember, and it’s beautiful, and perhaps I ought not be so stiff about leaving it.
Then I thought: no, I’m not stiff about leaving it. Just excited about everything stretching ahead.
Anyway, if education really is what they say it is (accruing knowledge, not pieces of paper), then I have my fair share of it ahead of me. One piece of paper down (well, very nearly, anyway); perhaps more to go (reminds me: must submit my applications to masters programs by January!); but plenty of learning still to do. $12,000 parties have nothing to do with this.
Unrelated note: MUST finish my thesis (if I don’t, this entire post is more or less invalid, given that I don’t think I get my degree without a finished thesis). The more I work on it the more it strays from the realm of the political, into the realm of the almost-philosophical. In short (and in reference to an earlier post): I find I want to write less about sustainable energy than about sustainable living.