Why Is There Contradiction in Our Lives?

From Krishnamurti’s Book COMMENTARIES ON LIVING 1

He was a well-known and well-established politician, somewhat arrogant, hence his impatience. Highly educated, he was rather ponderous and tortuous in his expositions. He could not afford to be subtle, for he was too much involved with appeasement; he was the public, the State, the power. He was a fluent speaker, and the very fluency was its own misfortune; he was incorruptible, and therein lay his hold on the public. He was oddly uncomfortable sitting in that room; the politician was far away, but the man was there, nervous and aware of himself. The bluster and the cocksureness were gone, and there was anxious inquiry, consideration and self-exposure.

The late afternoon sun was coming through the window, and so also the noise of the traffic. The parrots, bright green flashes of light, were returning from their day’s outing to settle for the night in safety among the trees of the town, those very large trees that are found along roads and in private gardens. As they flew, the parrots uttered hideous screeches. They never flew in a straight line but dropped, rose, or moved sideways, always chattering and calling. Their flight and their cries were in contradiction to their own beauty. Far away on the sea was a single white sail. A small group of people filled the room, a contrast of colour and thought. A little dog came in, looked around and went out, scarcely noticed, and a temple bell was ringing.

‘Why is there contradiction in our life?’ he asked. ‘We talk of the ideals of peace, of non-violence, and yet lay the foundation stone of war. We must be realists and not dreamers. We want peace, and yet our daily activities ultimately lead to war; we want light, and yet we close the window. Our very thought process is a contradiction, want and not-want. This contradiction is probably inherent in our nature, and it is therefore rather hopeless to try to be integrated, to be whole. Love and hate always seem to go together. Why is there this contradiction? Is it inevitable? Can one avoid it? Can the modern State be wholly for peace? Can it afford to be entirely one thing? It must work for peace and yet prepare for war; the goal is peace through preparedness for war.’

Why do we have a fixed point, an ideal, since deviation from it creates contradiction? If there were no fixed point, no conclusion, there would be no contradiction. We establish a fixed point and then wander away from it, which is considered a contradiction. We come to a conclusion through devious ways and at different levels, and then try to live in accordance with that conclusion or ideal. As we cannot, a contradiction is created; and then we try to build a bridge between the fixed, the ideal, the conclusion, and the thought or act which contradicts it. This bridging is called consistency. And how we admire a man who is consistent, who sticks to his conclusion, to his ideal! Such a man we consider a saint. But the insane are also consistent, they also stick to their conclusions. There is no contradiction in a man who feels himself to be Napoleon, he is the embodiment of his conclusion; and a man who is completely identified with his ideal is obviously unbalanced.

The conclusion that we call an ideal may be established at any level, and it may be conscious or unconscious; and having established it, we try to approximate our action to it, which creates contradiction. What is important is not how to be consistent with the pattern, with the ideal, but to discover why we have cultivated this fixed point, this conclusion; for if we had no pattern, then contradiction would disappear. So, why have we the ideal, the conclusion? Does not the ideal prevent action? Does not the ideal come into being to modify action, to control action? Is it not possible to act without the ideal? The ideal is the response of the background, of conditioning, and so it can never be the means of liberating man from conflict and confusion. On the contrary, the ideal, the conclusion, increases division between man and man and so hastens the process of disintegration.

If there is no fixed point, no ideal from which to deviate, there is no contradiction with its urge to be consistent; then there is only action from moment to moment, and that action will always be complete and true. The true is not an ideal, a myth, but the actual. The actual can be understood and dealt with. The understanding of the actual cannot breed enmity, whereas ideas do. Ideals can never bring about a fundamental revolution but only a modified continuity of the old. There is fundamental and constant revolution only in action from moment to moment which is not based on an ideal and so is free of conclusion.

‘But a State cannot be run on this principle. There must be a goal, a planned action, a concentrated effort on a particular issue. What you say may be applicable to the individual, and I see in it great possibilities for myself; but it will not work in collective action.’

Planned action needs constant modification, there must be adjustment to changing circumstances. Action according to a fixed blueprint will inevitably fail if you do not take into consideration the physical facts and psychological pressures. If you plan to build a bridge, you must not only make a blueprint of it, but you have to study the soil, the terrain where it is going to be built, otherwise your planning will not be adequate. There can be complete action only when all the physical facts and psychological stresses of man’s total process are understood, and this understanding does not depend on any blueprint. It demands swift adjustment, which is intelligence; and it is only when there is no intelligence that we resort to conclusions, ideals, goals. The State is not static; its leaders may be, but the State, like the individual, is living, dynamic, and what is dynamic cannot be put in the strait-jacket of a blueprint, We generally build walls around the State, walls of conclusions, ideals, hoping to tie it down; but a living thing cannot be tied down without killing it, so we proceed to kill the State and then mould it according to our blueprint, according to the ideal. Only a dead thing can be forced to conform to a pattern; and as life is in constant movement, there is contradiction the moment we try to fit life into a fixed pattern or conclusion. Conformity to a pattern is the disintegration of the individual and so of the State. The ideal is not superior to life, and when we make it so there is confusion, antagonism and misery.