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Are Opposites Real Or Illusory?


JosephM
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Our language makes daily use of words commonly referred to as "opposites" such as good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, hard and soft, dark and light, hot and cold, etc etc.

 

Are opposites real or just an illusory point on a continuum arbitrarily placed by individual perception and judgement?

Do you find their use useful ? If so why? If not Why? What think you?

 

Joseph

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I’ve had and run into a few ideas about opposites which are:

 

In Christianity: that good and bad are opposites, but in terms of the word evil, there is an understanding that goes more like this: The word eve actually means life and the word evil actually means ill-life. So here we would have the opposites or two opposing ideas: life and ill-life. In Christianity good is often equated with life, and evil or ill-life is often equated with death, as opposed to physical life and death on their own, or as understood in common usage.

 

In Art: That pretty is the opposite of ugly but for beauty there is no opposite. Also in art that certain pairs of colors are considered both opposite and complementary. Some examples here are red and green, blue and orange and yellow and green.

 

In terms of Gender: I’ve never quite gotten this, that people are thought of as being divided into two “opposite” genders. It seems to me that we all have: two arms, two legs, two hands and feet, ten fingers, ten toes one torso, a neck, one head, two ears, one nose, two eyes, one heart, one liver, one brain and so on and so forth. This doesn’t actually spell out opposites to me. I think we might be much better off calling each other complimentary as in colors instead of opposites.

 

Thanks for reading

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I think coining things as opposites may be a useful communication tool for our species taking into account our limitations, but i can't think of any opposites that are 'precisely' that. Some things may be termed good because they make us happy, whereas something else may be called bad because it makes us upset, however I don't usually see them as empirically opposite.

 

I think opposites are most definitely based on our opinions and judgements.

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To quote Paul of Tarsus: “Do not delight in what is evil, but rejoice in what is good”. This clearly states what a person is happy about a matter of choice. It says that what a person allows themselves to be happy about and to tune into as a way of thinking, to make them happy is a matter of choice and the personal consent or choice of the individual.

 

Clearly a thing making one person or another happy or not is not really a standard as to whether it is good or not.

 

This can also be found in Corinthians concerning Love (Love as God or a Higher Spirit means it):

 

New International Version
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

 

 

Something similar can also be found in Proverbs:

 

Proverbs 2:14 http://biblehub.com/proverbs/2-14.htm

 

New International Version
who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
New Living Translation
They take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil.

 

 

There are a good many other verses of this sort, one might check out the “Cross References” listed at the following link or do some searches themselves: http://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/13-6.htm

 

 

I think that more than a few people have had thoughts or ideas that made them happy, which then, they are not so happy about. I think that it’s more about what a person tunes into or whether they allow themselves to go with, - focus continuously on this/these trains of thinking. Or, whether they tell themselves, I don’t want to think this way, and find another train of thought or ideas to think by, perhaps regarding the same subject matter(s) and focus on it that way.

 

An example here might be the difference between sex and “making love”. Realizing that making love is 1,000 times better and more might influence a person’s thinking here. {Also realizing that true love necessarily invites an eternal commitment and the eternally wanting to be together might also influence a person’s thinking.} Realizing that this also involves procreation and that one may not be in a positon to raise a child or another child may also influence this kind of thinking and where one allows their thought processes to go and be all about or be concentrated on.

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Okay, maybe 'happy' wasn't a good reference for good.

 

Perhaps if I rephrase it to question what is 'good' and what is 'evil'. For instance, if it rains in my area I think it is 'good' because it fills up dams and reservoirs for the impending summer. However, if that same rain hits a farmer's grain crops that are ready for harvest and ruins his harvest, I'd be guessing the farmer feels that this rain was 'bad'.

 

My point being, good and bad, happy and sad, hot and cold, are all subject to perspective and opinion, and subsequently are not 'set in stone' but rather are part of a continuum, in my opinion.

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No worries.

 

Maybe part of the question or perspective is whether something is morally good or bad, right or wrong, and to what degree. Something can just be a mistake but there’s really no moral or quantitative judgment that can go on regarding it. Similarly something can just be unfortunate but again how much moral judgment or discretion can one apply to the circumstances when it’s just unfortunate.

 

I think there’s something to be said for just focusing on what’s positive, or what’s good or what’s right or ok,… and literally forgetting about what’s bad, what’s wrong or what’s just not with it. In a way this kind of attitude kind of makes what’s negative dissipate and just dissolve into a non-memory,… and the circumstances around it either disappear or change themselves into something else with a positive intent or inner structure instead of a negative or harmful one.

 

I’m not sure, maybe this kind of attitude could become something like denial, in which case it would allow something negative to snowball or take on more vim. But I’m thinking it could just as well or more make negative stuff dissipate and simply go away.

 

There are things that one can’t forget or shouldn’t have to forget, like if they are going to keep company with someone who has done them wrong all the time. But if the negative circumstances are no longer around and in one’s life every day or most days, tuning it out / forgetting about it/them can possibly be a real answer or solution.

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I think opposites are illusory and just an arbitrary point on a continuum placed by individual perception and judgement. They may be at times useful in communications but they are not an accurate description because they are in reallity not opposites but rather an arbitrary degree on a continuum. To say it is cold or it is hot is highly subjective. (just ask my wife :mellow: ) To denote temperature in degrees of heat is much more accurately represented. The same with all things we deem as opposites. What is 'beautiful' versus 'ugly' except an arbitrary term even if a majority agree. What is 'good' and 'evil' except an arbitrary judgement even if agreed upon by a majority.

 

To me opposites which includes good and evil tend to make things black or white when even black or white are not opposites but degrees of light on a continuum perceived as such. I cannot think of an opposite that is not a subjective point of view and personally i believe understanding this is important in our evolution of consciousness. It makes more for openness and more effective communications. Using words such as 'right' and 'wrong' , 'good' and 'bad', as if they are opposites is to me the things that wars are made of. It seems to me, little discussion can be made with such an understanding because as Paul said above using them implies .... " they are set in stone". rather than just an arbitrary point of view.

 

Just musing,

Joseph

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E,

 

a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.

 

ie hot and cold are simply arbitrary points we put on a single line which are degrees of heat from one extreme to another. Heat is real that can be measured in degrees. Cold can be defined but only in terms of heat.

 

PS Cold or Hot doesn't actually exist. Its used for convenience sake. Heat is the continuum with hot and cold alternative viewpoints.

Edited by JosephM
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Why i think an understanding of opposites is important....


In my experience, the human mind places hypothetical standards on human conduct that leads to judgementalism. Understanding the problem with opposites tempers judgementalism which i find devoid of compassion , love or forgiveness. Judgementalism has an attitude that is harsh to say the least. It appeals to egotism by feeling 'right' virttuous or righteous. It operates by condemnation, shame guilt and seeks retribution or punishment. Forgiveness is a diffult step for the mind to take by virtue of its arbitrary positionality which creates these conflicting dualities (opposites such as right and wrong fair and unfair or deserving versius not deserving.) Therefor i think understanding the nature of opposites helps give us compassion for human frailty and tempers judgementalism. This opens us to forgiveness and what seems to me a freedom to love others and ourselves unconditionally.


Joseph

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I’ve got to say that I believe in things such as right and wrong, good and bad, enlightenment and evil. I once came across an American Indian saying in a book of their legends and sacred stories, it said – there is no such thing as good and evil, only good and fear. I liked this and took it on as part of my thinking for a while. But it seemed that just about the moment I took it up as an idea that I believed in, I started to be confronted with a number of really negative things. Things like really hideous child abuse and animal abuse, things like in the ASPCA commercials but about people as well as the animals. Things concerning drug addiction where children were not only born addicted but were more than half starved from neglect and the use of finances for drugs instead of food. Things like the holocaust or mass genocide and murder. Slavery along gender and age lines for the purpose of “sex” and forced breeding.

 

Dividing things in to right and wrong may or may not sometimes cause war. However eliminating a virus or catching a cancer while it is still small and before it becomes an infestation and a massive tumor can stop and prevent a lot of mayhem, and war also.

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Elen,

 

I also may still use terms such as hot and cold and good and evil but i now have a different understanding of them than in the past. I now realize they are arbitrary points of view and not absolute values.(i think this understanding is important to go forward in ones journey)

 

My wife says its warm while i say its cold, Rather than have a fruitless argument about it and whose right or wrong we can both agree that the temperature is say 68 degrees and she feels comfortable while i feel uncomfortable. I can then put on more clothes and let her win. :)

 

On good and evil, instead i can look at things as wise or not so wise choices. I can say as Paul in the NT is recorded saying... "All things are lawful to me but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful but do i want to put myself under their power" . Some people may be so trapped by their mind that they may not see what using opposites as absolutes is doing to them. Truly understanding opposites as arbitrary value or points of view diffuses judgement , anger and the like and as i said in the other post for me contributes to peace and love.. If one chooses a different view, i understand . In a sense we are frail creatures often bound by thoughts.and we don't even understand where thoughts come from..

 

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
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I don’t know Joe; I sometimes wonder at what point do you say to someone: own up, shape up, and make up, that is make amends or restitution? I’m talking about things like abuse where bones are actually broken and people are forced to live in a constant state of terror. I’ll also add that sometimes these people are looking for someone to set limits for them, instead of just forgiving and making it ok for them so it can go on and on and on, when it’s clearly and unquestionably not ok. As far as anger goes, sometimes there is such thing as righteous anger, even Jesus got angry sometimes and called people a brood of vipers or a den thieves.

 

If a person actually has to do something when they’ve done something wrong to someone else, like apologize, make restitution, and change their act so they have some positive track record that evens and balances out their old one, they are much less likely to repeat the same abuses over, and over, and over again. Jesus spoke about our having to and needing to forgive when someone repents. Not just say it’s ok and in doing so give that person what they take as encouragement for such clearly wrong and dysfunctional abuses, which then go on and on. I'm not trying to shift the responsibility off the abuser or the abusive here. I'm just saying at some point people have a right to stand up to them and put it on them to get their own act together. I guess if a person can't or won't forgive when someone really apologizes and fully repents, well that's on them if they can't forgive, but blind forgiveness to the point of mayhem and a long string of abuses doesn't work at all either.

 

You say right and wrong are matter of degrees, with one end perhaps going up to God and eternity where the other end goes down to darkness and who knows where. At what point do you decide where zero is and a negative scale is on one side and the positives are on the other. Degrees can go on forever as far as I can see and at some point these degrees seem to end up being perty far apart. Mixing some of the negatives in with the positives doesn't help very much and at some point just looks like someone trying to get away with something.

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Elen,

In response to your above post......

 

It seems to me,just because one forgives someone doesn't mean it is wise to stick around and be in a relation with them.. Forgiving is not forgetting or continuing to put oneself in harms way. If i am burned by another, i forgive them and let go of the hate and anger but i do not give up the wisdom that i have been given by putting myself back in the same position to be burned again especially in such an extreme case as you mentioned .You asked "at what point do you say to someone: own up, shape up, and make up, that is make amends or restitution?" I don't feel the need to have to tell them how to live. If they can't figure it out for themselves or don't ask me, i would just leave

 

 

It doesn't matter whether that person apologizes to me or not. It is my forgiveness of them that i am concerned with. If they can't apologize that is their problem to get over. Forgiveness is not blind. It merely lets go of self-judgement and says 'let go and move on'. Besides , if nothing else , how many times do we have to repeat the prayer " forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" before we realize its a spiritual law.and that unforgiveness is merely judging ourselves or as recorded "for what measure ye measure, it shall be measured unto you". I have found both statements true and therefore am persuaded it is wiser to walk in a spirit of forgiveness of others so that in reality i can say,,, there is nothing to forgive but if they want to hear it i will surely comply.

 

I do not decide where right or wrong starts or ends. At least that is not my present function in this world. :) I find it enough to live my own life as best i am able and not to worry whether others are trying to get away with something. The universe to me has an order even when it seems like chaos. I believe in the verse that says 'as we sow, we shall reap". The particulars as relates to others i leave to that which sets the order.

 

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
grammer and minor changes
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Yeah but Joseph, you’re supposing that a person can always get away from the person who is abusing them or as you say has burned them. It may be a coworker and other jobs may not be that easy to come by or a person has enough time invested in the company that it’s detrimental for them to change jobs. It could be a classmate or someone on campus, again changing schools could be detrimental. It could be a neighbor who just won’t leave other people alone, and moving is not practical or even possible at the time. It could be a roommate or dorm mate and it would take some months or longer before one or the other can move out. It could be a family member that one just can’t throw out. The person could be a child and unable to work and make it on their own and get away from another abusive family member. It could be an elderly person who is dependent. It could be someone who because they have children can’t afford to move out and get away from an abuser. In addition abusers often set up traps and threats so a person can’t get them out of their life. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of scenarios here, but you get the picture. Also why should the person who is doing nothing wrong always have to move on and the abusive person gets to stay and take over the neighborhood, the company, the campus or what have you.

 

Sometimes holding people accountable and expecting something in order to be forgiven can be a step to real and positive change. Also forgiving or not forgiving is not necessarily judging, it’s just not tolerating abusive behaviors any more. One isn’t judging them in terms of heaven and hell and as if they are God, I think that most people know they’re not God. It’s just holding them accountable for their own actions and expecting a certain standard of sanity from them. If I’m lousy to someone I expect myself to apologize and make restitution, I don’t expect them to just forget about it and lie and pretend it didn’t happen when it did, that would be like adding an additional mind bender to what has already gone wrong. I’m not asking anyone to live up to a standard that I myself wouldn’t live up to in the first place. I’m not giving anyone a measure that I haven’t first taken on or am willing to take myself.

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I think the fact that this discussion is so extended proves that opposites do not exist. If they did, everything would be clear cut, black and white. Obviously it's not. Morality is subject to opinions and societal 'agreements'. Perception comes from experiences, of which we have all had different ones.

 

Sure, we can generally say a thing is good or bad, but how good or bad? Is a righteously moral act directly opposite to a unmoral act or, as I think, is it more a case of degrees?

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Elen,

 

There is always a choice. Some are difficult to make and have ramifications as you mentioned. So you do whats in your power to do or stay but from a spiritual standpoint, in my view of things, forgiveness will open up doors a lot faster than anger and the bitterness, guilt and condemnation that unforgiveness brings. At least that is my experience.. Sometimes you just have to leave and trust in that which gives you life. I don't believe God takes sides in conflicts but i do believe doors are opened and become apparent to those who forgive.

 

Like i said for me i only hold people accountable for things i have been somehow placed in power over them for. Such as their behavior on this forum. Where i have neither the authority nor means to hold them accountable i either accept it or move on. That is my experience and it has in the long run worked for me.

 

Joseph

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Hi Joseph,

 

My experience has been very different. For me forgiveness has just opened the hatch for people to do the same thing over and over and over again, sometimes forever. The things that Jesus says about a person having to pay back the last penny, about owning up and confessing and about repenting, and yes, then other people need to forgive them, but are these all things null and void and all that’s required or needed is forgiveness? It can be hard sometimes as is said in the Lord’s Prayer, “help us to forgive” but eliminating any need for restitution or change and just forgiving,… that’s like asking someone to swallow something without putting it in their mouth and chewing it first. They just can’t do it.

 

I’ve held both coworkers and fellow students accountable for themselves when they have been really demeaning and bullying to another person, and with no call or rhyme or reason what so ever. I was never in a position of power in relation to them. Sometimes this was to my detriment sometimes people respected me for it. The reason I did it was because they were being intolerable and hideous and it needed to stop. All I could do was say something, which perhaps wasn’t that much, but I was letting them know that they weren’t as cute as they thought they were being. Maybe the next time they'll think a bit before they just go around derailing and breaking others down.

Edited by Elen1107
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Elen,

 

Whose function is it to see that the perpetrator needs to provide restitution or change? Yours? His/Her? society? or our creator?

 

People are what they are. Remember this prayer?

 

"Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

 

Elen, I don't know what to say. To me nothing is required for my forgiveness. If what you are doing works for you and gives you peace and love then great. I am happy for you. If it doesn't perhaps you can learn from your experiences or try a different approach that seems to work for others. I found forgiveness the key to my journey.

 

Joseph

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Joe,

 

I find just forgetting is the key to mine.

 

And letting what some people do be on them, they can take it up with themselves or their Creator. All I know is what's on them is not on me, and it's not on me to forgive them if they are just going to use and abuse forgiveness in order to string out their abusive, hideous routines forever and ever.

 

Elen

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I believe in opposites on the physical plane of duality, but in spirituality opposites are united in a whole so don't exist. I like being in spiritual unity where there are no opposites or gender as a rest from the forces pushing and pulling in the physical realm.

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Joseph asked are opposites illusory?

 

Our language makes daily use of words commonly referred to as "opposites" such as good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, hard and soft, dark and light, hot and cold ...

 

We have a tendency to delve into relativism here. eg Is a cold star cold? Not by human standards. What makes something hot? Motion within that object. The motion within the star is fast compared to the motion within us.

 

At work I have come across solids that are 70% free water, yet they behave as a relatively dry material ... I could walk across a pile of this material though I would not because I know it is thixotropic. On the other end of the scale some solids can contain 8% free water and behave as though they are bone dry.

 

The properties I have described are physical properties I can use a meter to measure these properties. Like hardness, illumination, acidity, voltage, mass, current, time, you name it.

 

Thing like beauty, honesty, goodness, morality ... I am not aware of a meter that can measure such things with any reproducibility.

 

We parse things into is and is not ... evolution has endowed us with this capacity to perceive differences. It also has endowed us with the capability to perceive colours. I am far from convinced colours exist outside of our minds. (This of course does not make the perception of colour any the less beautiful, but it does make their perception wondrous). Similarly ultimately I suspect the parsing of is and is not is also illusory.

Edited by romansh
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