Contradictions and volatility

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

“Contradiction” | Photo by PictureWendy via Flickr/Creative Commons

Like it or not, we are in the middle of everything, and that everything is more disruptive and unpredictable than stable. I am referring to our domestic situation in the Philippines as much as I am referring to the global environment. While all the noise of the vaccines has definitely tilted the emotional meter towards positivity, there remains, and even intensifies, the aura of negativity. But, then again, without a collision of extremes, there will be no catharsis. You and I need to see things as clearly as we can, the way they are and not the way we wish them to be.

When we do not have enough clarity to temper and guide us, our thoughts and feelings can go haywire. Tilt clarity any direction beyond a reasonable degree, and we open ourselves for deep disappointment. There are so many examples out there, and none as graphic and subtle at the same time, as mental depression. So much has been said about mental depression that an inevitable question is constantly asked, “Why?”

Mixed messages are one substantial cause. In this era of information that continues to be magnified and intensified, the market of ideas, options, recommendations, and fake news all go into simultaneous play. For most people who cannot commend their mind and emotions as though they are the masters of these, everything is absorbed. Some enter our consciousness. Most enter more quietly but no less effectively through the subconscious where there may be no defense.

Nature and life circumstances teach us about our strengths and our weaknesses. Some learn well that way, and others do not. For the longest of times, humanity belonged to chambers, so to speak. I choose chambers rather than boxes because chambers seem so much more important. From ancient times, we know that the societal infrastructure was quite rigid through the study of their remnants and recorded human history. And terribly unequal and rigid.

“Human imagination and creativity have always given birth to something new but never at a speed that can actually be visible. The technology that we have developed by today has catapulted us to a future we can almost see and smell.”

For millennia, humanity was taught by nature and life circumstances about what they could not do rather than otherwise. There were few exceptions, and that is why extreme contrasts defined society. There was the elite, and we can use many terms to call them kings, emperors, royalty, conquerors, and more. They could not have comprised more than a fraction of 1%. That was simply life then, the alpha male syndrome. The rest of humanity had other layered classes, but all together were less than the overlord.

When power resided absolutely in the hands of one person or family, it simply reflected the opposite truth – that everybody else had no power. When everybody has no power, life gives one constant message – you cannot do this or that, you do not have the power, and to cross the line means death. Imagine that messaging affirmed day by day, year by year, lifetime after lifetime, era after era. You cannot do this or that, you do not have the power, and you will meet death if you cross the line.

Of course, even the mindset brainwashed into human consciousness over tens of thousands of years is not exempt from the very nature of life – change. Indeed, change has been happening, and those alive today can review that journey of change more graphically than those before us. Human imagination and creativity have always given birth to something new but never at a speed that can actually be visible. The technology that we have developed by today has catapulted us to a future we can almost see and smell. At the same time, that same technology has given us the capacity to go back in time into our deep, deep past.

In totality, if we can muster enough clarity, we can see waves of changes with colorful images, relics of our past either preserved or reconstructed by technology. We get a dynamic scenario of change whose beat keeps getting faster and faster. We see on screens the Neanderthal man to present-day Einsteins and billionaires galore. It is as if we sense the ongoing story of humanity and then see the pattern of a journey from darkness to light, from ignorance to real-time information, from we-cannot-do-it to we-can-do it. The pendulum swings.

“Yet, in the realm of our psyche and the pool of our emotions rest the contradictions. Time may be treated by history as sequential but taken in by man as simultaneous and parallel realities.”

Yet, in the realm of our psyche and the pool of our emotions rest the contradictions. Time may be treated by history as sequential but taken in by man as simultaneous and parallel realities. The collective pace is different from the individual, and the manner of absorption varies from person to person as well. Therefore, it is not strange that we host numerous contradictions, as in being told by some life facets, we cannot do it and then by countless modern gurus that we can actually do it.

These psychic contradictions may push us to mental unhealthy, and extended quarantine can make them worse. The pandemic’s message is that the old normal is gone forever, yet so much of it remains. At the same time, what had suddenly disappeared may not actually come back. As societies more than just individuals, we carry these deep contradictions and end up confused, insecure, and worse, edgy, irritable, and possibly volatile. It will not take much to trigger societal eruptions like the bloody Israel-Gaza conflict.

“There are no solutions that will not themselves cause contradictions, like which to favor – the economy or health? Inside a Gordian Knot, any pressure worsens the situation. Except one, I believe. Kindness. Kindness to one another at this time.”

Our volatility is not a far-fetched psychological state. The pandemic has been such a severe experience that it continues as a living thread. It is not as though there was great stability before the pandemic, as ours has been a fractured and divided society. Besides the proverbial tension between the unequal factions of society, the pandemic provoked a spike in hunger and poverty. The political atmosphere has been belligerent as if there is no space for goodwill and oneness among Filipinos anymore.

There are no solutions that will not themselves cause contradictions, like which to favor – the economy or health? Inside a Gordian Knot, any pressure worsens the situation. Except one, I believe. Kindness. Kindness to one another at this time.

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