“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
– Walt Whitman
Many people mistakenly think that we live a linear existence. As our lives unfold small ideas give way to big ideas, false notions to deep truths, and so on. We progress, we self-transcend, we advance etc…
But the truth is much more interesting.
We are cyclical, iterative, recursive, dialogic, conflicted, conversational, reflective, backtracking, stumbling, wondering, explorers. Our quest to make meaning of our lives doesn’t lead us down a straight and inevitable path (though the conclusion is certainly inevitable). We wander, meander, detour, put it in reverse, swerve, plunge, soar, and much more.
Do we contradict ourselves? Only if we are stuck on the idea that once we’ve had an idea or said something out loud that it somehow becomes inescapably part of our being. That’s how it goes in politics– once a politician has said something or offered up an idea it’s instantly grafted onto their soul till kingdom come. But for the rest of us, the possibility of a more compassionate posture exists. We can grant one another the freedom to occupy multiple positions, conflicting thoughts and feelings, and much more. We can allow one another to be large and to contain multitudes.