The Paradox of New: Learning to Love Shades of Gray

There are so many beginnings to be happy about. As time marches on, annual activities and other milestones trip through the years. The new is inexorably linked to one “Happy” sentiment or another. We are constantly barraged by the new to obsolete the old. New has value in the now.

What is the value of maturity? Assets attained and maintained are less celebrated in our commerce-driven society. If we consider that every new thing is a product of its time, each other-than-new thing is a product of its time plus time. The best form of a new thing or idea incorporates lessons learned from the past. The new is not always in its best form, however, due to new constraints and blindness to history. Some new things aren’t propitious and may be downright undesirable. A “Happy Birthday” is the beginning of another year to be lived, a milestone marking the years lived. Spent youth is the complement to age and wisdom.

Pons Asinorum

Pons asinorum is latin for “bridge of asses.” It is also a synonym for paradox. In the classic sense, pons asinorum is a puzzle that is a bridge to raised awareness and intelligence. A classic problem is Euclid’s fifth proposition in the first book of his Elements. Considered a measure of transcendence to a higher-level of thinking, dim-witted medieval schoolboys failed to grasp the concepts required to understand it.

A more general meaning of paradox is roughly the reconciliation of contradictory features or qualities within a seemingly complete, rational system. Conscious behavior is as doomed as blissful ignorance to be confronted with paradox in daily consumption. Consider the polarity of these word pairs: conscious/unconscious, yin/yang, perceived/intuited, cognition/meditation. These words apply to activities of our physiology as certainly as to our relationship with our environment.

Transition is paradox is transition. New rises from the old every moment. In celebrations, we recognize that old and new exist simultaneously. At what point does the year cease to be new? At 12:01 AM January 1st or 11:59 PM on December 31st? For most, the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes – in a shade of gray.

The basic conception that our planet revolves around the sun explains the annual environmental phenomena that have colored our rituals around the globe – cultural, political, corporate, nothing is immune. We cannot have May or December without a stable context and understanding. It is this orderly mask that is directly challenged by paradox. Order is necessary for paradox to exist.

Untangle the Gordian Knot

Choices are our continuous challenges to untie and unravel. Standard procedures are the zone. Some decisions are easier than others. As definite “best” thinking solutions are supplanted by more intuitive choices that just feel right, we learn to bridge the fundamental paradox of thinking and feeling. The opposition of the forces are reconciled by the understanding that they are already in coherent alignment.

Even as we attach scheduled activities and rituals, each day is simply another span of 24 hours in our lives. What colors our temporal and spatial experiences are the connections we have to each other. Shades of gray lead to the decisions we make. As we begin to assign actual value to feeling, the economics of our experiences change.

Understanding drives perspectives. Seeing is a function of our minds. We are more appreciative as we understand paradox. A gift is anything we recognize as such. Count your blessings. We gain a vast perspective from the realization that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Our lives are defined as much by what we don’t have (conflict, disease, hunger,…) as what we do.

The lighter at right is a bargain brand costing fewer than 50 cents. In the context of the technologies and processes required to produce it, I am wealthy to be able to own such a thing. Imagine fire, the understanding of elements, metallurgy,… centuries of knowledge that are embodied in this disposable product. Our ancestors would have marveled at it. To command the manifestation of fire crossed a primitive pons asinorum. Considering the “wealth” built into every product is to begin to understand shades of gray.

Meditation Amidst Chaos

The process of control is a paradox. As soon as you place rules on behavior, exceptions arise. The process of creation is a paradox. Creating form is as much the absence of matter as it is the connected network defined by a blueprint. An idea is defined as much by what is not understood. Am I clear?

What we seek is conscious control over entropy, while paradox rules the unconscious. Each moment, consciously or not, our minds collect data and follow decision trees that exceed the capacity of powerful silicon technologies. When was the last time you thought of breathing? Of your heartbeat? Of healing?

In the spirit of paradox, I announce a lifestyle tool to promote meditation in the midst of busy lives. It’s simple to use and built with interrupted focus in mind. How many times have you been waiting in line with too little time to make yourself productive (e-mail, web), but still long enough to feel time passing? Instead of aimlessly data-collecting – attempting to find meaning in the banal – consider a focus that stills the mind. My site,, offers graphical, symbolic images to concentrate on, allowing you to create custom views and trips.

Exercise your ability to find quiet among distraction. Rest your mind, however briefly. Symbols are strong places of refuge. Experience the images abstractly, divert your attention as needed.

Try my website and let me know what you think. There is also a version for those mindless mobile moments of waiting. Embrace the paradox of quiet in chaos.

Thanks for reading.

About Peter

As a consulting professional in the Internet industry, I have helped small- and medium-sized businesses and community organizations effectively design and deploy web services and information. Years of hands-on design and project management experience for this market have inspired me to post my ideas and insights on a public forum --
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