By cultivating soft, yielding, flexible, nurturing qualities while neglecting to feed fighting spirit, fearlessness, and an indomitable will, most of these people usually end up being too one-sided.

Fairly often, I run into people I should theoretically feel a bond with people who seem to share many of my ideas but instead my first instinct is to run for my life, and take off in the opposite direction. My reaction usually strikes me as horribly unfair.

These, after all, are people who strive to be kind to others rather than kill them over ideological differences. They try to develop a healthy relationship with their bodies rather than eating crap all day long. They protect nature rather than destroying it. And for the most part, they wouldn’t dream of restricting my freedom of choice. So, why do they bug me so much then? I’m afraid my taste for paradox is to blame.
Too often, plenty of people try far too hard to live up to an idealized image of what being “spiritual” is supposed to be about. When I listen to them speak, even when I agree with the content, I still smell too much effort in their words. Their actions and demeanor always strike me as a bit contrived. Rather than being something that they learned naturally along with how to wipe their asses and play in the mud, spirituality to them is a mystical discovery, a special, sacred state of consciousness entirely distinguished from everyday life. But as Gary Snyder says, “I don’t know that I like the idea of distinguishing between the sacred and the non-sacred."
Actually, now that I think about it, Gary Snyder is too polite. Unlike his somewhat tentative answer, I am totally and completely turned off by the division between sacred and mundane. It seems unnatural and perverse. Real spirituality is not some esoteric state, high up in the clouds, removed from worldly concerns. Real spirituality is found in how you get up in the morning, in how you walk, talk, breath, smile, fight and burp. Real spirituality doesn’t require a special sacred lingo, and most certainly doesn’t need all this self-importance. The real thing doesn’t even bother considering itself “spiritual.” Spiritual as opposed to what? It asks innocently. Paradox frowns on separating spirituality from every other aspect of life.
This division opens the door to a whole set of other problems. By cultivating soft, yielding, flexible, nurturing qualities while neglecting to feed fighting spirit, fearlessness, and an indomitable will, most of these people usually end up being too one-sided. Their energy is all Yin and no Yang. They are typically nice, gentle, good-natured individuals, and even though this is highly preferable to mean, rude, obnoxious jerks, it still lacks something. No fire burns in their eyes. Not enough intensity shaking them to the core. No overwhelming passion threatening to tear them apart if it doesn’t find an outlet. This is why many women find bad boys more attractive than sweet, mellow ones. It’s as if their peaceful disposition came at the price of losing strength and power. Their emotions are too tame for my taste too domesticated. I simply can’t quite relate to people who never felt the need to drive their fist through a glass door (yeah, about that... I’m still sorry for your door, mom...) I would appreciate them a whole lot more if a raw, barbaric streak rounded up their spirituality. The day when these delicate souls will be able to talk about “positive energy” while singing an Eminem song, I’ll gain a new, increased level of respect for them.
And so here we are, stuck with the inevitable dichotomy that’s bound to happen wherever paradox is not welcome. Some of the nicest and most sensitive people around are too soft to manage our collective reality, too lost in their own inner world to have any meaningful impact whereas typically the most effective and driven have the discipline and the lucidity to get things done, but little empathy or vision. What we need instead is a paradoxical recipe mixing heart and muscles, sweetness and toughness, flexibility and strong values. Paradox is the magic potion necessary to heal ourselves and the world around us.


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