Beauty inside contradiction

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 10/13/16

My father was a complicated man, with simple tastes. And he loved to teach. One of his great lessons - a lesson he never articulated, but lived every day - was that there is a beauty in …

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Beauty inside contradiction

Posted

My father was a complicated man, with simple tastes. And he loved to teach. One of his great lessons - a lesson he never articulated, but lived every day - was that there is a beauty in contradictions. Like being complicated and simple.

For instance, my father was a man of deep thought and conviction, who would go from complex philosophical conversation one instant, and then, the next, be talking in a loud Irish brogue with a twinkle in his eye. From that, I learned that seriousness and whimsy can, and do, co-exist in the best minds. In fact, one of my favorite posters of all time is of Albert Einstein, sticking his head out the window of a cab, sticking his tongue out.

My father was the guy who could get up early on Sunday mornings to go set up the Sacristy before lectering at Mass and serving Communion, and could then come home and be perfectly entertained by professional wrestling. You see, deep Faith does not preclude the ability to enjoy the simplest amusements.

He was also the guy who would scream and cheer at the top of his lungs for the Denver Broncos, and, as soon as the game was over, would flip over to PBS and abide in the beauty of an Italian opera.

As long as it wasn't Pavarotti. But ... another story for another day.

My father understood that there are no simple definitions of man, that this wonderful piece of work known as man was capable of a wide range of interests and passions, and, sometimes even, able to balance two seemingly contradictory beliefs at the same time.

We, however, in this latter day, seem to almost despise the ability to balance contradictory thoughts. It is impossible to respect and admire the police, it would seem, without implicitly being a racist. It is impossible to recognize regimes in Iran and North Korea as evil, it would seem, without implicitly being a war-monger.

We've even gone so far as to codify this attitude in our schools: at some point, we seem to tell students that they have to be either athletes, or artists, or musicians, or scholars. We make it very difficult for students to pursue their own beautiful contradictions.

And don't even get me started on this election season, in which our real contradictions are between the candidates we've elevated and the hopes and intentions of the founding fathers.

I think we would all be better off if we just came to grips with the fact that there are contradictions all around us, and being able to embrace those makes the world a much more interesting place. Indeed, recognizing the complexity of the human animal and giving others the space to balance their own contradictions makes the world a more peaceful place, filled with humor, intimacy and community.

And I don't believe anyone would try to contradict the assertion that the world could use a lot more of those things.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com

Michael Alcorn

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