How often do we encounter loss and love back-to-back; death and life, back-to-back; the sacred and the profane, back-to-back; equilibrium and turbulence, back-to-back; grumble and gratitude, back-to-back?
On a grand scale as well as in our ordinary, everyday lives, the extremes of our human reality jostle for attention and take up sometimes uncomfortable residence beside each other.
Christina Bryer's fragile porcelain form shares the Antarctic ocean floor with a Nemertine (ribbon worm) - photo: Shawn Harper
The subject of polarities is a vast one that could quickly lead to the exploration of many corners and layers of both our individual and communal existence. The reason I bring it up is because there's evidence of this paradoxical 'back-to-back-ness' everywhere one looks at the moment and it seems to be happening as insistently on a personal level as on a local, regional, national and global one. There are junctions and disjunctions, congruencies and disparities, fractures and healing opportunities at just about every turn.
As has been the case since the beginning of time, light and dark are in the throes of emphatically announcing their different potentials to the world.
Take yesterday, for example - in the States, the exemplary (and - charmingly - domestic-as-oatmeal) Obama family was shown bonding delightedly with their new puppy; at the same time, Barack's head must have been dogged by ongoing issues of concern for the people of Afghanistan and Iran. Beyond the comforting domain of family, his nation's top sixteen banks are under question and under scrutiny; safety and threat, back-to-back.
In Zimbabwe, where Mugabe continues his despotic reign of terror, small acts of kindness are lifelines to hope; survival, a daily triumph. In Fiji, one man's hunger for power has led to violence and chaos - and the world is protesting, 'this is not okay.' In South Africa, Jacob Zuma (bigamist, alleged rapist, a man with blatantly questionable morals and ethics) looks likely to become the country's new president... and even as pre-election tensions rise, people around the world are being inspired to take positive action towards the ever-increasing tragedy of South African children orphaned by the HIV/Aids crisis.
In my own small home town of Dunedin, the Rugby Stadium issue (I want to whisper and shout about it at the same time, gross absurdity that it is) has brought out the very best and worst in people. The lack of insight demonstrated by the deluded folk driving the pro-stadium madness has drawn us out of our complacency and onto the streets to protest. The sense of a community united is more palpable today than it's been in ages - or so it feels to me.
Every day, we are witness to (and by proxy, participants in?) acts of brutality and courage, cowardice and compassion, greed and generosity, despair and promise. I'm not sure what it is I'm trying to say here; certainly I had no idea this was what I'd write today, nor where I'd end up.
I started with a question, and it looks as though I'm finishing with one. I ask it of myself, of course - ought not we to be our own first port of call? - and put it out to you, too. What is being asked of us in these times?