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The Thing Contains Its Opposite

Or, the seeming random nature of ping pong balls


by Carolyn A. Romano, Bliss Healing Arts
November 2007

Someone quite close to me once shared his belief that life is pretty random.  “When something bad happens to you,” he said, “it’s like you’ve plunged your hand into a barrel full of white ping pong balls and pulled out a black one.”  I find the image compelling.  And I have spent many hours conjuring up that barrel with my arm stuck in up to my elbow.  I’m fishing around for a ping pong ball, perpetually hesitating in my selection, not sure if I’ve grabbed white or black or white or black.  I am hoping beyond hope that I pull out the right color.

Hmmm, the right color.  I’m not sure what that means.  Is there truly a one-to-one correspondence?  Bad experience equals black ping pong ball and good experience equals a white one? 

I remember this same person reflecting on the difficult experience he’d been through.  “I hate that it happened, but I wouldn’t change it.  It taught me so much, and I’m a better man for it.”  This revelation begs the question (for me, anyway), did this positive experience emerge from the recesses of the black ping pong ball itself?  Or, somewhere along the way, did he reach his hand into the barrel again and pull out a white one?  Does it matter? 

All of these questions ricochet around my brain like, well, ping pong balls.  I consider the Taoist symbol for the interplay of forces in the universe:  the Yin Yang, a favorite of mine.  Actually, the symbol represents the idealized harmony of these forces:  Yin (moon) is the color black and represents the receptive female force.  Yang (sun) is the color white and represents the masculine.  This perfect equilibrium between the two halves also symbolizes the balance of enlightenment and ignorance, of light and shadow.  The shape of each half suggests perpetual movement or exchange between the two forces, and the circles within each (white in black and black in white) indicate that neither half can exist without the other.  In shadow, there is light and in light, shadow.  The thing contains its opposite.

And maybe it’s the same with ping pong balls.  Maybe we pull out more than our fair share of black ping pong balls; maybe we are blessed with more white ones than we know what to do with.  I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle and is somewhat dependent on the perspective of the chooser whose arm is elbow-deep into that barrel.  We get good news.  Yippee (and whew!) a white one.  Something heart crushing happens to us, and we are filled with sadness, doubt, or despair.  Damn, a black one!  And it goes on.

But the light does get through, or maybe emerges from within—or both.  In the midst of our joy about a new job, for instance, we soon realize it’s not all it was cracked up to be.  In the midst of the illness or death of a loved one, people show up, grace descends.  And through it all, we learn, we evolve, we love, we realize we are stronger than we thought and better for having had the experience. 

I’m not sure that my partner in philosophy would agree with my musings.  Some of it perhaps.  I don’t really need him to.  I’m not sure there are clear answers to my questions anyway.  I just hope that throughout our myriad discussions, I’ve given him something to contemplate as well.  What I am sure of is that I want to keep plunging my hand into that barrel without hesitation.  Black? White?  I’ll just remember that no matter which I choose, the thing contains its opposite. 

 

© 2007 Carolyn A. Romano.  All Rights Reserved.  www.blisshealingarts.com

 

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