Proving Contraries

I realized today that it has been a while since I've written a svithe. Thinking about recent events and other things going on in my life, the following thought came to my mind: "by proving contraries, truth is made manifest." I knew it was from Joseph Smith, but I first encountered it in an essay by Eugene England. In this essay, England discusses Joseph Smith as an archetypal tragic hero (in the literary sense of the phrase). To quote England: "Tragic man, the subject of our greatest literature, unwilling to rest with simplistic and thus secure conceptions of the universe, pushes at the paradoxes his mind and experience uncover." I found a rereading of this essay comforting. Recently I keep finding myself wanting to retreat into some sort of fantasy world where everything is neatly laid out for me. Where good and evil are obvious and where my choices would not only be clear, they wouldn't hurt anyone I love. A place where people speak in love and understand each other and are able to find solutions that benefit every one. But then I remembered that earth life is meant to be a test. A tragedy, not a comedy. Well, maybe it's a comedy, but to quote Elder Packer we are only in the second act. Things won't be neatly tied up right now and that's OK. The point is to wrestle with the "contraries" in order to prove them (in the sense of "testing" or "trying", not solving). I think it's all right to feel tired of wrestling some times and to retreat to a place of peace. But I've also come to see that I shouldn't worry so much about the seemingly contrary nature of our lives. It is supposed to be difficult, and hopefully I can find something of value through all this wrestling with paradox.

PS--If you haven't read any of Eugene England's writings, you really should. He's awesome. Signature even has an entire book of his online. Read it now.


Desmama said…
I've enjoyed reading what little I have of Eugene England. Dialogues is a good one. I remember he died the day I graduated from BYU, and they mentioned it at convocation.
rantipoler said…
Thanks for this. I've never heard of Eugene England. I'll have to check him out.
Th. said…

I feel the same. Or at least approximately so.
Maybe it is useful to think of tragedy and comedy in the sense that the older playwrights used it. "Comedy" isn't necessarily equated to "funny." It only means that the protagonist prevails over his enemies (whatever they happen to be) in the end.

Remember that movie "Stranger than Fiction?" One of my favorite lines in it is when Will Farrell's character says, with a totally straight face, "I think I'm in a tragedy." I found that line both hilarious and pathetic. I could also relate to it in some ways.

As you say here, we go on and on in the daily mundane of gray all the while dreaming of glorious conquests between good and evil. Black and white.

Maybe just getting up every morning and doing it all over again, even when the choices before us seem hazy at best and a stab in the dark at worst, is what makes us true heroines.

Though reading novels helps.
And writing novels really helps.
Em said…
At least our second act isn't as bad as the second act of a Lope play, right?
FoxyJ said…
Em--definitely glad we're not in the second act of a Lope play. Or a Shakespearian one (rape, dismemberment or forced marriage anyone?) Can you tell I'm studying Shakespeare this quarter?

Nomad--I was definitely using the terms in their classical sense, and I find it interesting that England aligns Joseph Smith with the tragic hero. Especially since many of his actions lead directly to his death. It's a good thing we don't believe that was the end of the play!
Kent Larsen said…
If you are taking Shakespeare, then have you read England's essay on Shakespeare? Its called Shakespeare and the At Onement of Jesus Christ, found in his collection Why the Church is as True as the Gospel.

Incidentally, the title essay in that book, indicates that the Proving Contraries quote from Joseph Smith originates in History of the Church 6:428.

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