Contradictions and emptiness: a quick insight

“The world is full of good people, if you can’t find one, be one”

Today I encountered an article on Facebook in Dutch (( about the present day media which create a negative self-image of mankind, although most people in the Netherlands (and the Western world) are quite friendly and regard themselves as being morally good. “I am a good person, but mankind is evil.” That’s quite contradictory, since if everyone is a good person, the world should be full of good persons, right?

I stopped watching televised news and reading newspapers years ago, since I already noticed how they bring negativity into your household and your mind. Even if the news is playing on the television or the radio and you are not actively listening, the negative messages will be absorbed by your subconscious. The state media should inform us with general information, but they only seem to stress the negative, while they should try to endorse the positive, another contradictory phenomenon. An alternative news network reported today that the oldest tree in the Netherlands has been treated by tree-surgeons in order to stay alive. This news may not be very informative or practically useful, but it is however good news.

The article in itself was very interesting, but it particularly made me think about how many contradictions there are in human society. For some people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) contradictions are a way of life. They often want and/or try to please others, even if they are too tired, stressed or angry to do so. The say ‘yes’ where they mean ‘no’. This also applies the other way around. They want something, but they don’t want to take the ‘risk’ of actually doing it, so they decline. At least in my own experience and stories of friends and acquaintances with BPD these are problems that occur or occurred in our lives. Most people with BPD struggle to find ‘normal’ work or job, while they are actually not able to work because of their vulnerabilities. In their head they feel guilty about not being able to work or they simply want to participate in ‘normal’ everyday society but they can’t and still they desire to work. Another big contradiction, a conflict in the mind.

I often say one thing, but mean another thing. In my case, it has to do with the big contradiction in my head. I have a high verbal IQ (I learn easily and I excel in abstract reasoning and general knowledge and have good factual memory). My performal IQ (the ability of planning, perception, well developed spatial intelligence and good motorics) is considerably lower. This lead to a big conflict in the mind, which seems to be a good indication of BPD. You get stuck inside your head, since you cannot express the things you are thinking. It may sound a bit strange, but you can compare it to describing a certain specific colour you have in your mind. How can you describe that specific colour to someone else? That’s hard, if not impossible. It’s right there in your mind, but you cannot express it.

Duality and binary oppositions are everywhere and they are gratefully exploited in the world of management and marketing and people are indeed eager to find these contradictions. People often confront me with seemingly contradictory actions in my own life. As a Buddhist I kill no living being (although I was raised in a family of hunters and outdoorsmen), but I do eat meat, especially when it comes from an animal which has lived well. To them it is hypocritical, but I never had the intention to kill the animal I eat. Instead I am grateful and when I eat, I thank the animal for nurturing me.

Some people know that I am a warrior, a fighter. I spent four years practicing several martial arts including Krav Maga and my BPD was expressed by very violent attacks of anger and panic in the past, but on the other hand I am a Buddhist seeking peace and loving kindness. These people fail to see that I did not choose to be violent and when I did, it was an expression of my inability to control my disorder. Martial arts taught me how to control my anger and how to contain and guide it. Many martial artists and warriors (even Special Operations soldiers) often embrace philosophy and Buddhism, because it strengthens the mind.

As a conflict-scientist/military historian I know that all organism in this world are in a constant state of war (as Thomas Hobbes already stated), constant competition leading to conflict. Still, I believe that the power of the mind is strong enough to guide this competition into regulated competition preventing conflict in its direct surroundings.

All of these examples are full of contradictions, which in the end are no contradictions. That’s the truth that Buddhism tries to explain. Buddhism is the study of emptiness, the study of non-perceptual thinking. We tend to label and organise everything, but nothing can exist independently. Nothing does exist on its own, since it needs other elements to exist. It also needs to be recognised in order to ‘exist’ in the mind. A tree exists out of many different elements. Wood, leaves, water, minerals from the soil, sunlight, the people and animals that live in and around it and influence it, the clouds which became the rain that feeds the tree, the soil that partly consists of leaves and remains of other plants and trees. We call it ‘tree’, but it is so much more. Everything is inter-connected, a phenomenon that Buddhists call ‘interbeing.’

I meditated on interbeing an non-conceptual thinking a lot and I came to a very clear insight. If you are aware of interbeing, the non-independent existence of things and their ‘emptiness’, these things being void of conceptual thoughts, you come to see that contradictions actually don’t exist. They are a part of cultural fabric which is fed by present-day media and general society. Everything you do has a reason and a purpose which somewhere fits into who you are and what you are supposed to do in the world. For me, realising this has made living with contradictions as a Borderliner a lot easier. I hope this insight can change things in your lives as well, if you choose to accept it. Just think about it, try to see things without conceptualising them, try to see how they are connected with the world. If you do this hard and long enough, you will develop compassion for the things and situations around you, including your own problems and you can try to let them go!


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