The Reality of Our Paradoxical World: An Ode to the Tao Te Ching

A Day in the Life of a “Philosophical Theorist”

Life sucks sometimes. The pitfalls of reality can suck us into the thresholds of suffering, depression, delusion and sometimes subsequent catastrophic feelings of guilt and failure. This is a really negative way to start out an article, but it’s the truth. We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt the hurt, the ache, the headache, the dull pain of unfortunate events, or even worse- the lack of events, boredom. The point being, we have all, in one way or another, been uncomfortable, experienced something that didn’t feel so good in the mind and the body. For us normal people, this is quite possibly a daily occurrence.

Here is the upside, the other side, the alternative thought. We live in a paradoxical reality. There are two sides to every coin. Every failure exists as the counter of success, every pain counters to the great feeling of comfort in the body. On those dark days, we sometimes forget that the dark would not exist without the light. That deathly hangover came from a wild night of endorphin-raging debauchery and inhibition, the dark and stormy skies precede a heavy rain that makes the greens greener and the harvests plenty.

Explore the paradoxes in your life. When you’re sad to be apart from a partner or loved one, feel the sadness, the pain, the longing to stay close, feel all of those things, be grateful for those beautiful things. Those painful things would not exist if it wasn’t for the love, joy and togetherness that exists as the alternative. When you are having a bad day, HAVE the bad day, experience the emotions of it, feel it in your body. However, in that space in the back of your head, the space where your truth hides when you’re too blind or unwilling to see it, let there live a knowing of a duality, a knowing of the ever evolving dichotomies that rule our world. For all of the beautiful, there is vast ugliness- The light at the end of the dark tunnel here is the acceptance of this duality, and appreciation of the paradox itself.

So when that heartbreak, sadness, irritation or anger sets in, feel it, experience it in its entirety. Learn to be curious about it, be grateful for it, be thankful for the fact that without these horrible feelings, we would not also experience their sweeter, more fulfilling and joyful twin siblings.

In Dr. Wayne Dyer’s translation of the Tao Te Ching, he notes an interesting view of the paradoxical world. He promotes a sort of “paradoxical unity”, seeing all things as one. Seeing the beautiful and the ugly as one and being in appreciation of the unity of both sides. He advises us to “Fuse these dichotomies, and the result is effortless action without attachment to outcome…combine the so-called opposites into the oneness of being without judgment or fear”.  The point here is to just be, seeing all things in their paradoxical states and accept them for what they are.


In the 2nd verse of the ancient Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu so eloquently states, “Under heaven all can see the beauty as beauty, only because there is ugliness. All can know good as good only because there is evil. Being and nonbeing produce eachother. The difficult is born in the easy. Long is defined by the short, the high by the low…”

Accepting uncomfortable feelings is easier said than done, this is a life long struggle. Work at it, keep an open mind, feel the good and the bad in whatever form they present themselves. When it’s bad, remind yourself that the good is nearby and just on the other side.

*Danielle shared this article as a contribution

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