Contradictions are Opportunities to Grow
Analyzing page 930 of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” – John Galt’s Speech
Ayn Rand writes:
Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. A contradiction cannot exist. An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole.
No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge.
To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.“
When our reasoning ability fails us, we arrive at contradictions. An impasse prevents us from proceeding in determining truth from falsehood to determine our course of action. We are halted.
A contradiction is an opportunity to grow.
It’s an opportunity to reflect on one’s premises that lead us up to the contradiction, and to evaluate the unchecked core assumptions that lead us down an erroneous trail of logic.
If we are honest with ourselves that we do not yet have the answers, and ruthless in our pursuit of truth, contradictions won’t withstand our efforts to remove them for long.
Humility is required to grant ourselves permission to be wrong. Once admitted, we seek solutions. That which we seek, we find. That which we find, we integrate, knowledge is created, and wisdom can be shared.
Eliminating contradictions from one’s own thinking is a responsibility inherent to possessing a mind capable of reason. If your aim is to live a happy, fulfilling life, contradictions will harrow your path. They will slow your progress towards your dreams. Because thoughts inform and produce actions, contradictory thoughts can only manifest as contradictory behavior. If we keep our contradictions because it is emotionally convenient, we become their slaves; our duty is no longer to pursue truth but to evade reality. Our emotional security comes from our ability to evade thinking and introspection, not our ability to courageously pursue it.
Maintaining contradictions turns one’s innate creative energy destructively inwards towards self-erasure and self-abdication.
I’ve listened to and participated in thousands of hours of deep, personal conversations about people’s traumas and histories. We all hold contradictions near and dear to our hearts. The price we pay to keep them is our sanity, freedom, prosperity, and capacity for love and growth.
I’ve heard people say, in the same breath: “I had a pretty good childhood. My father was an alcoholic who used to beat me, but I turned out fine.”
This is exactly the kind of contradiction that most needs to be resolved.
By refusing to acknowledge the difficulties one faced in childhood, one is not just condemned to repeating it for the next generation, but one is also damned to carrying the burden of protecting one’s violators from the responsibility of their crimes.
Contradictions like this can, and most often will, often cost us our lives.
Whether by slow tortuous death by an unfulfilled existence that withers away by stagnation, or by suicide – deep trauma based contradictions only destroy.
Ayn Rand likely didn’t intend for this passage to be interpreted for personal psychology. She probably meant it in a more abstract philosophical sense. But I think that the level of individual psychology is precisely where this message needs to be heard most.
We must face our demons. We must get help when we can’t face them alone. We must come to understand our past, to see contradictions we’ve unconsciouly woven into our personal narratives to protect ourselves from truth. And we must slowly work to erode the barriers we erect around the contradictions we hold which once kept us safe.
Without going through this process of mental and emotional rebirth, we are doomed to perish.
However, if we do resolve our contradictions, truth becomes the cornerstone of our existence. We are freed to live authentically and joyously as has always been our birthright. We need no longer channel creative energy into self-destruction – we are free to create, to do, to be, exactly what we’re made to be.