Contribution – A Paradox

Thursday 20 August, 2020

This post is the first of three which seek to present the paradox of contribution. They invite us to explore the notion that we can make a difference to each other and to see that, ultimately, all we can do is use our interactions to make a difference to ourselves and to our own lives.

This first piece prompts us to question our assumptions of how we can help one another; the second goes into more detail about how helping yourself is a more effective approach; and the final piece is an encouragement to persevere with this way of thinking, along with a reminder that whatever we learn from our connections with life, we need to put it all into practice.

What Is Our Contribution?

The most important contributions we make to each other are the connections we create. Within our relationships, no matter how deep or short-lived, lies the opportunity for each one of us to reach our own insights and discover our own learning. It is, therefore, the responsibility of each person involved in the unique creation of that interaction to take whatever they can for themselves.

It seems so selfish and self-centred to prioritise ourselves in this way, and at first glance it fits easily into what Charles Eisenstein refers to as the Story of Separation, where each of us is seeking to maximise our own self-interest.

However, on closer inspection – and it has taken me years to get to this point – it becomes clear that there are more subtle forces at work; a fact borne out by Eisenstein’s insistence that if we are not careful, our proposed solutions to the problems of the world might actually make things worse.

We Think We Know

Just because we think we know what another person (or the world) needs, doesn’t mean we’re right. We are often hindered by our arrogance and our desire to help. We rush into things without deliberation and we stay there without reflection.

In doing so we miss the subtlety and nuance of life. Life has an emergent complexity which can help take the much of the strain out of our day and inspire awe if we could just give up our desire to order, control, and restrain it.

Live In the Question

One way to access its wonder is to listen: to ourselves, each other, and to life itself. Listen closely and patiently – live in the question, live in the problem – and the truth will be revealed.

That’s really the main point of these three posts – to prompt us to consider that the way we see the world is not always the most helpful one, and to relax with not knowing the answer. They are an invitation to think about things in a more magical way. After all, where exactly has our understanding brought us, and what would happen if we abandoned everything we thought we knew? Would we disappear? Certainly not. Might we experience some kind of liberation? Very possibly.

Besides, it’s the stuff which doesn’t make sense that really fascinates us. Intrigued by mystery and magic, our limited view of life is briefly exposed and we catch a glimpse of the boundlessness of it all.

Paradox & Confusion

Unfortunately, we are usually pulled rapidly and inevitably back into the dominant version of reality. But what if we stayed a while with the doubt and uncertainty? What if we began to embrace the following wisdom:

Paradox and Confusion are the Guardians of Truth.

Those words appear in the comments section of two posts, ‘Confusion’ and ‘Contradiction, Paradox & Friendship’, both of which are relevant to this piece. They reassure us that it’s okay to be confused; that it’s okay to experience contradiction.

More than okay, if you’re confused, or something doesn’t make immediate sense, you’re probably onto something. But for now, examine how inhabiting those two states makes us want to get away from them, or do something to remove the discomfort.

Those previous six, italicised words are often what drive our belief that we can contribute to others. We want to take away our own feeling of discomfort at their pain. However, when we begin to realise that not only are they capable of taking away their own pain, but also that their pain and their self-healing can be so deep as to be life-changing for them, we begin to see, paradoxically, that we can make a greater contribution than we ever thought possible, simply by not trying to help. Confused? That’s okay.

Read Part 2 | Read Part 3
Related posts: The Best Thing I Can Do… | We Change The World

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