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by Al Carden

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Jan. 29, 2017

My reflection today centers around the idea of paradox. Perhaps it would be helpful to take a moment to explore the various ideas that tend to support paradox and its meaning. Wikipedia defines paradox as, "a statement that, despite apparently sound reasoning from true premises, leads to a self-contradictory or a logically unacceptable conclusion." Margaret Rouse in Whatis.com defines paradox this way, "A paradox is a statement or concept that contains conflicting ideas. In logic, a paradox is a statement that contradicts itself; for example, the statement 'I never tell the truth' is a paradox because if the statement is true (T), it must be false (F) and if it is false (F), it must be true (T). In everyday language, a paradox is a concept that seems absurd or contradictory, yet is true. In a Windows environment, for instance, it is a paradox that when a user wants to shut down their computer, it is necessary to click 'Start.'"

As I have considered paradox and how this idea has begun to take shape in my thinking the more it seems to become increasingly shapeless. This shapeless form tends to speak in silence, move in stillness and exist in nothingness. I invite you to "enter" my reflection by "exiting" your possible pre-conceived ideas related to certainty. Remember, this is only a reflection. A reflection is the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it." Therefore, perhaps in order to reflect reflections we will need to absorb what we will reflect.

I have discovered that my reactions tend to surface within myself as I use my senses to make judgements based upon that which I have determined to be reality. Whatever reality I have determined within myself to be certain it is from that vantage point where comes my judgements. Most of the time my judgements about others, for example, tend to come from what I see with my eyes or hear with my ears or experience with the other senses I have at my disposal. What if that which I deem to be certain begins to change and what I was so certain of no longer holds the weight it once did? What does that say about certainty?

It occurs to me that paradox may speak of passage ways through opening that to the senses do not exist. Now if I were reading this for the first time I might be thinking that the writer of this blog is talking out of both sides of his mouth and there was a time when I would have agreed. But as I have explored some of the sayings of Christ it is becoming clearer to me that paradox may have aided Jesus in putting the invisible right before our eyes inviting us to look at it with a different sense that perhaps we didn't know we had nor the ability to use.

In the gospel of Matthew chapter 16 and verse 25 Jesus is recorded as saying, "For whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." Luke's gospel chapter 14 and verse 11 says, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Now these are just a couple of examples of the paradoxical nature of some of the sayings of Jesus. One of my favorite Bible stories that speaks to the paradoxical awareness of contradictory understanding appears in John's gospel chapter nine. This is the story about the man born blind. The blind man was treated by the religious establishment as a sinner due to his blindness. Therefore to them he was a social outcast. Once he is healed of his blindness he is given a new perspective regarding the outcasts of his day of which he is most aware. When Jesus finds him and asks him if he believes in the Son of Man the outcast former blind man asks Jesus who he is so he can believe. Once Jesus identifies himself as being the Son of Man the former blind man has absolutely no difficulty in believing in Jesus. In other words, this young man who had been blind all of his life was able to see Jesus for who he really is, the Son of Man.

The paradoxical idea of blindness becomes increasingly apparent when Jesus speaks of blind guides. He said they strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. He asks if the blind can lead the blind? Shall they both fall into the ditch? As I have continued to reflect on my own blindness I keep on hearing the recorded words of blind Bartimaeus in Mark's gospel chapter 10. When I saw my blindness for the first time I cried out, "Jesus, thou Son of David have mercy on me" just like Bartimaeus did. Paradoxically speaking, in order for me to see, really see, I had to admit my blindness. When the Pharisee asked Jesus recorded in John nine if he were blind also Jesus replied, "If only you had recognized your blindness you would have no sin." That makes sense since Jesus came to take away the sin of the world.