October 3, 2012
Posted by John Spencer
But if philosophy is a playground, paradox is the teeter totter that lets me fly away in solitude, into the abstract, alone and unencumbered, until I feel the tug of the terrestrial, the community, sometimes falling hard into the concrete.
I'm still learning how to do that, to be community-minded and self-directed, to be okay with solitude and embrace relationships, to talk and listen, to be abstract and concrete.
In high school, I was a dreamer, but I was the worst kind of dreamer. My dreams were cynical and sardonic, filled with wry humor. I saw the world in the abstract and couldn't see the concrete. I had stepped off the teeter totter, climbed up the slide and declared myself above it all, afraid to find the joy of letting sliding back into the sand.
I was both too abstract and not abstract enough. I was a champion of social justice. I was a firebrand of rhetoric. Then I became a tutor in a non-profit and later a teacher, where I found that my students didn't care about my ideas. They just wanted me to be there, present, in the concrete. I also saw in them a hope that hadn't been corroded by cynicism.
A year later, I was dad and instead of getting scared about the world my child would inhabit, I grew hopeful. I learned to laugh. I learned to dance again. I learned to paint, not because it serves a deep cosmic purpose, but because water colors are beautiful.
I let go.
I need the freedom to fly into the abstract, to have my own solitary mental space. I need to dream. I need to write and to paint and to draw and to develop fantastical worlds that don't exist in my life. But I also need the tug of the terrestrial, the pull of relationships, the concrete gravity of context.
photo credit: nzgabriel via photopin cc