I’m reading this book called The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer, which is another book full of wise gems to write on sticky notes, in journals, to memorize, to practice, to repeat, to share. This week, I read super slow through the chapter on paradoxes….mostly because I pretty much copied the whole dang thing taking notes.

According to Webster, a paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true. Palmer describes paradox further by writing, “…[it is] that tension, a way of holding opposites together that creates an electric charge that keeps us awake.” If you break down the origin of the word, you will find the the Greek and Latin root meanings form another definition: To think, or seem, contrary to expectation. We hear paradoxes often, though we may not explicitly know it.

Fighting a war for peace….

Don’t go near the water til you learn how to swim….(my late grandmother’s favorite)

If you are traveling at the speed of light and you turn your headlights on, what happens?…. (To my high school Physics teacher, I’m sorry my class asked so many of these questions on a regular basis.)

We know paradoxes. Or at least, we get the idea of what they mean…or part of what they mean. Putting them into real-life, making them a tool for learning is a whole other thing.

Palmer gave a few paradoxes for teaching with wholeness in this chapter I kept rereading. The one that I found myself flipping back to again and again had to do with an individual’s sense of self. He writes, “To become a better teacher, I must nurture a sense of self that both does AND does not depend on the responses of others.”

This sounds a lot like how we learn to be interdependent with our partners in tango. I sat in a cafe sipping tea this week thinking about this statement and how it fit so well with tango and in life. We can’t lean on our partners…if they dropped the embrace and *poofed* out of our space, we would fall flat on our sorry faces. If we can stand alone but inquire, encourage, and invite our partners to share their views of who we are (as we are, not as we used to be or as we will be), we learn a great deal and can demonstrate and put into practice what we learned. With ourselves, with others. We find what Parker calls ‘a solitary journey’ as separate dancers AND find help from each other in seeing who we really are.

Don’tcha know…right after I made this connect to tango, I continued reading and he went on to describe this paradox with a partner-dancing metaphor. (Smart guy!)

I also thought this sounded like something else…..the horizontal and vertical virtues and identities from the book Far From the Tree. (Missed that post? Read about it here: ) Are these identities paradoxes too? To grow together, we have to grow apart (as unique individuals)? To cultivate intimacy, deep love, and compassion we have to have differences? Who do you enjoy dancing with the most and why? Are they more similar to you or different?

What do you think about all this?

M.C. Escher’s “Relativity” –a perspective and visual paradox

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