Opposites Attract

A fundamental principle that is often used in mathematics and science is that “opposites” tend to balance each other out. A negative times a negative makes a positive, or two magnets of different polarities attract to each other. However, this statement can also be applied to many aspects of life as well. We can compare this to a puzzle, where a certain piece of the opposite shape can fill up what the rest of the picture is missing. For instance, a child who was raised in a strict environment grows up to be more rebellious, to make up for the childhood that they lost. Contradiction is present everywhere around us, since it is only natural that we yearn for a “balance” in our lives.

Many of us are often held back from the potential that every one of us bear, especially by parents that expect us to behave a certain way to fit their mold. This leads to self-doubt, not even realizing that we have the power to do so much more. Marge Piercy expresses this through the poem, “A Work of Artifice”: “The bonsai tree in the attractive pot could have grown eighty feet tall… It is your nature to be small and cozy, domestic and weak.” While we are all able to strive to greater heights, we are told to stay within our boundaries, limiting any progress within ourselves. Only we have the ability to control what we want to do with ourselves, whether it is to make the decisions that we want to make, or to continue living by the standards we were always raised with. Continuing to live a life where we have no authority over ourselves leads to a dull life with memories that have less value to us, which almost opposes the future that most of our parents expected from us. 

Have you ever looked at something and felt a strange sensation of nostalgia? It’s quite intriguing, as many of us look back on the past, wishing to go back to when “times were simpler.” Yet, everyday, we’re moving forward, learning new things, and growing to become better people. In “Children in the Woods,” Barry Lopez states, “Whenever I walk with a child, I think how much I have seen disappear in my own life.” This opposition of a child with less understanding in life, and an adult who has lived longer represents the balance of age and life. However, he also has the ability to create new, everlasting memories that can stick with him for the rest of his life. Even when time is lost, there is always a future that we can still change.

When does “future” end, exactly? Many people believe that passing and death is just the end, it’s inevitable. However, even if our physical bodies are gone from the world, the memories and impacts that we create still live on through the people around us “from death and forever,” as E.E Cummings says. Many stories do not end without an epilogue. Death isn’t the final page of our stories. Albert Einstein, Michael Jackson, and Marilyn Monroe – while they aren’t present in this world, their influence will live forever with us, even after death.  Eternity and demise, two opposing forces, can still be tied together through our legacies that continue to be carried on through future generations. 

While paradox can often cause conflict, it is still a common occurrence that will always exist. The hypocrisy of the bonsai tree, Lopez’s reflection of the past, and life after death are just a few examples of this. Contrasts are necessary at times for stability, such as how water is used to put out small fires. Opposition is unavoidable, whether it be positive or negative. Rather than averting it, we can learn that just because two things may differ greatly from one another, doesn’t mean that they cannot go well together.

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