Chapter 3: Walking the Tightrope
Once, when the Hasidim were seated together
in all brotherliness,
pipe in hand, Rabbi Israel joined them.
Because he was so friendly they asked him,
“Tell us, dear Rabbi, how should we serve God?”
He was surprised at the question,
and replied, “How should I know?”
But then he went on to tell them this story.
There were two friends of the king,
and both were proved guilty of a crime.
Since he loved them the king wanted to show them mercy,
but he could not acquit them
because even a king’s word cannot prevail over the law.
So he gave this verdict:
A rope was to be stretched over a deep chasm,
and, one after another, the two were to walk across it.
Whoever reached to the other side
was to be granted his life.
It was done as the king ordered,
and the first of the friends got safely across.
The other, still standing on the same spot, cried to him,
“Tell me, friend, how did you manage to cross?”
The first called back,
“I don’t know anything but this:
Whenever I felt myself toppling over to one side,
I leaned to the other.”
Existence is paradoxical; paradox is its very core. It exists through opposites, it is a balance in the opposites. And one who learns how to balance becomes capable of knowing what life is, what existence is, what godliness is. The secret key is balance.
A few things before we enter into this story.. First, we have been trained in Aristotelian logic - which is linear, one dimensional. Life is not Aristotelian at all, it is Hegelian. Logic is not linear, logic is dialectical. The very process of life is dialectic, a meeting of the opposites - a conflict between the opposites and yet a meeting of the opposites. And life goes through this dialectical process: from thesis to antithesis, from antithesis to synthesis - and then again the synthesis becomes a thesis. The whole process starts again.
If Aristotle is true then there will be only men and no women, or, only women and no men. If the world was made according to Aristotle then there will be only light and no darkness, or, only darkness and no light. That would be logical. There would be either life or death but not both.
But life is not based on Aristotle’s logic, life has both. And life is really possible only because of both, because of the opposites: man and woman, yin and yang, day and night, birth and death, love and hate. Life consists of both.
This is the first thing you have to allow to sink deep into your heart - because Aristotle is in everybody’s head. The whole education system of the world believes in Aristotle - although for the very advanced scientific minds Aristotle is out of date. He no longer applies. Science has gone beyond Aristotle because science has come closer to existence. And now science understands that life is dialectical, not logical.
I have heard:
Do you know that on Noah’s Ark, making love was forbidden while on board?
When the couples filed out of the ark after the flood, Noah watched them leave. Finally the tomcat and the she-cat left, followed by a number of very young kittens. Noah raised his eyebrows questioningly and the tomcat said to him, “You thought we were fighting!”
Noah must have been Aristotelian; the tomcat knew better.