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The Paradoxical Nature of Love

What is mature love? It is union under the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individuality. In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.

Erich Fromm

You can’t love what you don’t know, yet according to Paul Valery: It would be impossible to ‘love’ anyone or anything one knew completely. Love is directed towards what lies hidden in its object.

The Paradoxical Nature of Hatred

It is a great mistake to suppose that love unites and unifies men. Love diversifies them, because love is directed towards individuality. The thing that really unites men and makes them like to each other is hatred.

G. K. Chesterton

The more alike the enemy becomes, the more different he will appear.

The Paradoxical Nature of Freedom

Freedom is not doing what you want, freedom is wanting to do what you have to do...this kind of freedom is always rooted in practised habit.

Northrop Frye

A liberal may be roughly defined as someone who, if he could stop all the deceivers from deceiving and all the oppressors from oppressing merely by snapping his fingers, wouldn’t snap his fingers.

The mode in which the inevitable comes to pass is through effort.

Oliver Wendel Holmes

Men cannot escape from obedience to God. The only choice given to men, as intelligent and free creatures, is to desire obedience or not to desire it. If a man does not desire it he obeys, nevertheless, perpetually, in as much as he is a slave to his instincts and passions.

Dostoyevsky said that man acts in the way he feels like acting and not necessarily in his best interests.

Renunciation is the way to experience freedom. Self-imposed limits are the way to experience freedom.

The Paradoxical Nature of Knowledge

Things are simultaneously knowable and incomprehensible.

Knowledge is a paradox. It’s both subjective and objective; subjective because it requires a subject, the knower; objective because it requires an object, the thing known. The meeting and marriage of subject and object, of a receptive mind and a strange fact is what we mean by the word knowledge.

When we know something we bring it down to the level of our intelligence.

The Paradoxical Nature of Understanding

The whole secret of mysticism is that a person can understand everything with the help of what he does not understand. The logician seeks to make everything clear, and only succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows a few things to remain mysterious, and everything else becomes clear.

Sometimes it proves the highest understanding not to understand.


The Paradoxical Nature of Truth

Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise to balance it.

George Santayana

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

Niels Bohr

The ordinary man has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual [or intellectual] sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.

G. K. Chesterton

The Paradoxical Nature of Reason

Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it.


It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, “Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? Are they not both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?"

G. K. Chesterton

The Paradoxical Nature of Insanity

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason.

G. K. Chesterton

If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgement. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

G. K. Chesterton

Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtaxed.

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes

Madness may be defined as using mental activity so as to reach mental helplessness.

G. K. Chesterton

The Paradoxical Nature of Faith

Faith is a gift, but it is also a choice.

To believe with certainty we must begin with doubting.

King Stanislaw II

In a paradox that doesn’t disturb me now in the least, it may be that I shall never again have such complete assurance that [Catholicism] is true as I did when I made my last effort to deny it.

G. K. Chesterton

The Paradoxical Nature of Sin

I tell you, in heaven there will be more rejoicing over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine souls that are justified, and have no need of repentance.

Luke 15:6-7

There can’t be repentance without sin. Thus we have the paradox of good coming out of evil. The evil of sin is a necessary prerequisite for the joy that is occasioned by repentance.

The central defect of evil is not sin but the refusal to acknowledge sin.

M. Scott Peck

The Paradoxical Nature of Individualism

Individualism is the foe of individuality. Where men are trying to compete with each other they are trying to copy each other. They become featureless by “featuring” the same part. Personality, in becoming a conscious ideal, becomes a common ideal.

G. K. Chesterton

The Paradoxical Nature of Competition

True competition is identical with true cooperation. Each competitor tries his hardest to defeat the other, but in this use of competition it isn’t the other person that is defeated, but the obstacles he presents. In overcoming the obstacles presented by the other both competitors grow stronger and each participates in the development of the other.

Conflict or competition carried to an extreme will tend to produce sameness on all sides. A single inexorable logic will finally reduce everything to the same terms.

Rivals grow more alike with every new attempt to be different and this causes them to intensify their conflict.

The Paradoxical Nature of Courage

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers.

G. K. Chesterton

The paradox of courage is that a man must be a little careless of his life even in order to keep it.

G. K. Chesterton

The Paradoxical Nature of Rationalism

Extreme rationalism, by ‘seeing through’ all ‘rational’ motives, leaves us creatures of wholly irrational behaviour.

C. S. Lewis

The Paradoxical Nature of Power

Each new power won by man [over Nature] is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger.

C. S. Lewis

Power, if one examines it closely, shows itself to be a fiction. There is in its very essence a fundamental contradiction that prevents it from ever existing in the true sense of the word. It would be otherwise if one could possess in one’s self a force superior to many other men put together. But such is never the case. The instruments of power—arms, gold, machines, magical or technical secrets—always exist independently of him who disposes of them and can be taken up by others. Consequently all power is unstable. There never is power, but only a race for power.

Simone Weil

If everything is possible then nothing is possible. Nothing is possible for the self because it is the object that is possible. Absolute power is impotence.

Jacques Ellul

The Paradoxical Nature of Money and Possessions

Our life is frittered away by detail. . . .
Simplify, simplify.

Henry David Thoreau

The less you have the more free you are.

Man must choose to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them.

Ivan Illich

When market dependence reaches a certain threshold it deprives people of their power to live creatively and to act autonomously. And precisely because this new impotence is so deeply experienced, it is very difficult to express.

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