Life and its Contradictions

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”  To hold opposing thoughts or ideas in your mind at the same time feels unnatural at first. You have been conditioned to resist contradiction, or at the very least, to try and resolve it. When you loose the trappings of linear thought, however, you open yourself up to the deeper realities of life.  We do not live in an either-or world. Logic and reason are powerful, but they will never contain the richness of the universe. The last time I checked, the human condition was frequently illogical and highly paradoxical.  People I know are both good and bad; life is often wonderful and very painful; our greatest strengths can also be are our greatest weaknesses, and our triumphs sometimes turn out to be defeats.  This is the universe we live in.  How foolish, then, to view it from a lens that wants it to be one or the other, this or that.

Some of our most memorable and timeless moments have elements of contradiction about them.  One comes to mind now.  In my mid-twenties I thought it would be cool to take a road trip with my wife to see the old Nosek homestead outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  I’d made the trip only once before, as a young boy, with my family.  On that trip I met my great-grandfather and my grandfather’s brother (my dad’s uncle) who actually spent most of his life on the farm.  All these later, I was excited to find my dad’s uncle Victor again.  He embodied a sort of living connection to the land that was really the beginning of my family in Canada.

We found Victor living in a small home in the suburbs of Saskatoon.  To see him, now in his eighties, was to connect the present with the past in way that I could feel in my gut.  The family resemblance was overwhelming.  His hands could be my father’s hands. Indeed, he looked to be an older version of my dad, and possibly, myself.

We had a very special visit, and of course, he told us how to find the old farmhouse, which we did.  On our last day, when it was time to go, I could not shake a certain feeling which I can only describe as bittersweet. I will never forget driving away, and looking back at Victor, who was waving to us from the sidewalk outside his house. His eyes were wet with tears.  We both knew we would never see each other again.  The brief visit was a powerful connection, one that bridged miles and generations. I left his house in Saskatchewan that day, the same but different.  Somehow emptier. Somehow more fulfilled.

In 2010 Victor passed away.  He was 93 years old.  I am more than thankful for the memory of that visit - the long prairie roads and the sky bigger than than you can imagine. Sometimes the past flows into the present and not the other way around.  Life.  And its contradictions.


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