Monday, August 3, 2015

Binary oppositions

As Eliot writes, we "arrive where we started/ and know the place for the first time." As much as Singaporeans are well-travelled, a majority of my friends, including myself live and work here for most of our lives. How do we see a place so familiar to us with a fresh perspective? We travel. We reside in a new place for a period of time. We speak to the locals. And explore places outside the tourist terrains. We look at areas at the extreme ends of some issues, hoping to derive solutions in the process.

Binary oppositions often occur in artists' areas of interest or rather it has been deployed to structure the world. For example, order/ disorder, home/ house, conceal/ reveal, public/ private, life/ death etc. In literature, similar concept is seen, in the Science fiction novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Yes, sometimes, certain words do not have an opposite such as a word for "The opposite of loneliness" book, by Marina Keegan.

Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist said, "the opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth can be another profound truth." Perhaps we are to view the world as a concept of paradox. Rather than splitting the world into either-ors, we could see them as both-and. To discover the truth, we could embrace those opposites as one. Liken breathing itself as a form of paradox, using inhaling and exhaling to be whole.

T. S. Eliot, "Little Gidding," in T. S. Eliot: The complete poems and plays, 1909 - 1950 (Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt Brace, 1958), p. 145.  

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