Opposites

One of the lessons I do with pre-intermediate students is on opposites.

What is the opposite of light?

Well, I suspect most of you would have said Dark, but I’d have accepted Heavy too. Many words have multiple opposites: right  can be the opposite of wrong but also of left.

Most concepts have their opposites too. Good versus evil, Light versus Dark, introvert/extrovert.

I was thinking last night about how our very world shapes our perceptions of things. For instance, mathematics is based largely on the fact that for some reason we have two hands(binary) and ten fingers(digital). I think also the way we interact conceptually is based on having two hands. Everything is either/or or simply both. We can hold things in each hand. When you add things to the equation, it becomes complex and we seek to simplify by putting things into categories. We like to pigeonhole everything. We like things to be symmetrical and even.

And because our planet spins round the sun, we are aware from our earliest days of the contrast between dark and light, between day and night, and this is something I feel has strongly influenced how we perceive the moral and ethical world too. The seasons too have a power to change how we classify the way the world works.

Often when I have covered opposites, I move onto synonyms. People often forget that due to English being a composite language made up of hundreds of influences we often have words that mean almost but not quite the same thing. Is valiant the same as courageous? Not quite. Is intelligent the same thing as clever? No. There are shades and nuances in language that make it so hard for even native speakers to fully get to grips with it.

It’s the same with life. Absolute good and absolute evil are not things we normally encounter. I do believe they exist. I believe in God and I believe also in Not-god. I don’t like the terms that exist for this, because they carry a medieval taint. For most things though, there are infinite shades of in-between good and evil.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It’s built into the laws of physics. For every hero there is a villain. Our world is built around opposites.

So why do New Agers find it so hard to accept that Light and Dark are as much a part of our world and every person here, that the oppsite of light is not evil? Daytime and nighttime are built into the biology of life. You can’t have life without both. Dark is not evil. Dark is just…dark.