"Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying', she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.' 'I dare say you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour each day. Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'" *
I'm thinking again today about the power of paradox. Parker Palmer has taught me the importance of looking for, and finding a way through, the tension of opposite ideas – ideas that, while seemingly at odds, are both important. For example, UTSA is an institution on the move; we're changing rapidly, but we want to create traditions. Traditions give us something to hold onto in the middle of such constant change.
Other examples: we want leaders to be visionary and yet we also want them to be grounded in reality. We want people to be proud and modest. We want decisions impacting us to be fair and consistent and we want decision-makers to treat us as individuals. We want to be recognized as individuals and welcomed into community.
The power in paradox is the wisdom that comes from acknowledging that both ideas are important and instead of saying we can only have one or the other, we find a way to include both in our thinking and in what we do.
Where do you find power in paradox? Do you have a favorite pair of opposites that empower your actions?
If you think you don't hold two opposites together, spend a little time thinking about it. I suspect you can identify one or two. Once you've identified these pairs, consider where they may provide you with opportunities for creativity and innovation and see what surprises you might find. And see what new possibilities might occur to you as a result.
*Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll