I love and hate oxymorons
How can I not . . .
It calls for it . . .
Definition and etymology
Two words used together that have, or seem to have, opposite meanings.
~ Cambridge Dictionary
The term is first recorded as Latinized Greek oxymōrum, in Maurus Servius Honoratus (c. AD 400), it is derived from the Greek ὀξύς oksús “sharp, keen, pointed” and μωρός mōros “dull, stupid, foolish”; as it were, “sharp-dull”, “keenly stupid”, or “pointedly foolish”. The word oxymoron is itself an example of an oxymoron.
Oxymorons create confusion. They refer to two opposites you indeed can both experience. Such confusions can torture your mind when they are linked with matters that deeply long for clearance instead of confusion. Someone with cancer or another severe illness that can go in remission or return, will feel like being in a hopeful distress for a very long time. The hope is needed to manage the stress. The stress is needed to be ready for loss of hope and face death. Someone in love who never knows if it is reciprocal will feel like being in a tough love. An addictive mind will feel like consuming troubled satisfactions. All of these oxymoronic situations have one thing in common. They put you in a state between euphoria and despair and with that in a constantly present awareness of insecurity. They all are emotionally exhausting, no doubt about that.
Linguistically oxymorons are brilliant and one just has to love that. Oxymorons serve very well to describe situations and/or feelings we feel as complex and contradicting. Good for comedy/humour, sarcasm, cynicism, but also for all kinds of sensory experiences. If combined with another linguistically brilliant phenomena, the use of metaphors, you can do nice things in writing an enigmatic piece. Clearly the definition I used is not complete. Oxymorons do not only exist as two word combinations. They also exist as one word, hence the word oxymoron itself.
Examples of an oxymoron:
- Effective multitasking
- Cruel kindness
- Slow haste
- Sweet torture
- Fine mess
- Deafening silence
- Seriously funny
- Silent scream
- Absent Presence
- Awful good
- Alone together
- Definite maybe
- Intense apathy
- Impossible solution
- Simply brilliant
- Oddly familiar
Close to an oxymoron is the paradox, but a paradox is meant to eventually lead to a clear idea that actually can exist, where an oxymoron can be figuratively true but not literally. They can exist next to each other in a text of course and will force you to read very well and think twice what it could mean in the presented context. A paradox is far more complex than the fairly simple and more playful oxymoron, because it challenges you to test your opinions in an ultimate way, making it hard to decide what is true for yourself. An oxymoron is more fun and used for an effect, a paradox is meant to get you to dive deep.
Looking at all of these examples of oxymorons and knowing they only can be figuratively true does not mean I cannot do a mind experiment with them. Let’s say an oxymoron’s truth exists at the level of imagination we so often use when being in our minds. The imagination we need to be able to travel to the more hidden layers in ourselves. The ones we cannot always translate into clear words or even lack words. When I look at an oxymoronic situation from that perspective I see this:
Theoretically the opposites contradict too much to be able to exist at the same moment in time. But our imagination can do tricks with all we experience. Our imagination can merge opposite feelings and squeeze them together into that same moment or at least make it look like that by leaving out logic of what can or cannot be true. Like we can do things in dreams that never could be done for real. The dream stays real in itself however and the experience we had in that dream as well. So this gives quite some psychological power to an oxymoron and makes it feel like possible.
Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics of their song ‘Sound of Silence’ is a good example. There can be no sound of silence for real, but we all understand it exists even so in our mind. This also explains why imagined threats can feel so real btw. No one sees they exist, except the one experiencing them. What we experience always is real. Even if nothing of what we experience is actually present. It can be both wonderful and scary to experience oxymoronic situations. As if you can fly without wings and when realising in a moment of logic there are no wings, you will fall down.
Living in the moment
This brings me to another ‘phenomena’. If an oxymoron cannot exist in the same moment of time, it officially needs an extra moment to become possible and valid. But nowadays we are very much stimulated to live in the moment. I agree living in the moment is a bliss way to cope with the challenges we meet in our life, but it is far from easy. Apart from that I often have doubts if it only is benefitting or also has downsides. Moments simply tend to connect with each other, leaving traces. And traces seek each others company to make a map of your life. What I felt yesterday is not necessarily gone tomorrow and my mind will have this urge to anticipate on that. Ruminating is easier than trying to block that. Moments blending together become an overview in time, from past to present with possible references for the future. One moment carries traces of the past and paves the way to the future moment. To not go back or forth in your mind needs a lot of control. I do agree a future scenario to worry about is a bit useless maybe, just also very hard, plus … we need visionaries who are able to foresee certain processes to develop new things we can benefit from.
I always like this one a lot:
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards”
~ Soren Kierkegaard
And the one on the dots by Steve Jobs:
Sometimes I think living in the moment is more a theory we like to believe in as stress reliever than being an actual possibility. Theoretically possible for sure, but that to me never is a guarantee we also are capable of doing it. Even the most trained ones in that have a past that shapes their every moment of today and will meet their mind going back or forth in thoughts. There are of course differences in how some are more skilled masters of it and others totally not. I will be somewhere in between and I consider that healthy enough for now. I need some space to wander off to get sense and perspective. Thinking of a future in a positive way is ok too after all . . . It’s not a forbidden fruit.
Also, I seem to have this highly annoying mind that never stops thinking and analysing. And to disconnect that from past experiences and future scenario’s is extremely difficult when it concerns mind boggling things like fears, insecurities, shame, pain, love, heartbreak, illness, threats and all kinds of hard choices.
I think I am at my best when insecurities are low. They fuel fears and other negative energy that make it hard to function in a stable way. The worst insecurities are the ones of not knowing what you face and/or why. To be in this no man’s land between something potentially horrific or potentially wonderful is not very pleasant and, like I said before, emotionally exhausting. I can be there for a long time, but it has its limits. That’s the time I have to act on things, if possible, to not go down in misery.
Oh oh, did something happen?
Things always happen, even in a hermit’s life. At the moment I am reducing medication I have been taking for many many years. I always was convinced to need them and even at an officially too high dose. That has to do with my meds’ safe maximum dose being adjusted by the pharmacy industry over the years and me deciding together with the psych it was not too alarming in my case. I took a risk but considered it an acceptable risk. Almost an oxymoron as well I suppose . . .
When I started to lower the meds in June I was prepared for all possible scenario’s, especially the bad ones because those were scary. I knew what I could expect and how I would have to act when it went bad. This made my being scared less intense because it generated the idea of being able to take control when I would become physically ill or suicidal. Still not nice as scenario, but tools to grab when needed. Until today however I don’t experience anything negative at all. Only positive changes like feeling less numb and more energy. More intense feelings maybe but those never were really low, so I am not sure on that. Some call it a mist withdrawing from your mind, but I don’t know. Maybe more active as blogger and more expressive. If that is the mist experience I would have to agree. Fact is I started feeling again during the use of meds and during therapy, but I consider therapy as main help for that myself. Anyway, I seem to do well (mind the words I use . . . . always ready to face the opposite) and that makes me happy.
I think my life now therefore focusses on avoiding situations that have a high level of insecurity. To avoid all with a potential danger is not healthy of course. So, this only is about avoiding really high risk situations that can damage my progress in a way I do not want to expose myself at. The hardest ones are the ones being this oxymoronic situations. They can both harm and bring ultimate pleasure. I could go visit a place or do something I find terrifying but also always have wanted to see or experience. I think for myself and knowing myself it is best I only dare myself into high risk situations when I feel really up to it. A positive energy is more likely to generate an also positive outcome. Safe ‘play’ maybe is not the most exciting way, but at least also not a devastating way. I need comforting risks to be able to move forward. Risks that tell me I can handle them. Risks that will reward me with a powerful willingness and braveness by accepting them. Such risks exist, but need to be carefully selected. I have to do it that way and not think I can do all now.
As for the meds I talked about…
I keep limiting them and with some luck (what else can it be except also navigating my way around too risky situations? ) I will be free of them at the start of November. So far so good. Speaking of ‘so far’, listen to this intriguing sound machine. Just as intermezzo and because of the name play.
There has been done plenty of research on insecurity increasing feelings of fear. One of the facts is your body starts to produce more cortisol, the stress hormone. That is not necessarily bad and even can be useful. Consider it a drug directing you in a state of mind with a higher level of alertness and achievement. It can help you to survive a stressful situation (exams, relational bugs, dangerous events etc). But that state of mind is supposed to exist for a short time only and then fade again. If that does not happen you enter a permanent state of stress and risk to become severely damaged. This often goes very slow and without being conscious of it. It invades your life and takes it over more and more, until you are trapped and don’t know your way out anymore. Losing control over your own life is not a fun place to be. It matters to take it back when you can.
Sometimes we cannot take back control in the way we would want to, because it is out of our reach. The Covid-19 pandemics is a good example of that. We cannot make it go away for ourselves and better focus on what we can change and control maybe to feel better. It needs some creativity of your mind and thoughts to look at things in another way for instance. I can tell myself the world sucks right now. I also can tell myself the world sucks but still has values enough I feel happy with. I can cry my heart out over a loss of freedom or something else and stay in that mood. I also can see it as an opportunity to make steps in a new direction that will help me to feel positive again despite all. I can be angry at whoever for disappointing me. I also can think it was a helpful sign to know who I can rely on. I can feel suffocated for being limited in how to behave in social distancing measures. I also can think . . . oh well it filters away all unnecessary or unwanted social acts nicely as well.
I seem to be writing more than before. Who knows that’s a symptom of something inside needing more expression than before. Who knows it’s the meds. Who knows it’s a friend triggering my thinking. Who knows it’s Covid -19. Who knows it’s my cat looking at me with that look telling me to leave her alone. Who knows it’s my hormones. Who knows it’s just business as usual in a higher frequency. Who knows I will explode if I don’t write and try to prevent that. Who knows it’s OCD. Who knows I try to reach 10.000 posts like Apmel Goosson did (he must be mad . . ). It does not really matter for me why, as long as I feel it as pleasant. I also have planned a big personal project for the next few months. I do not really want to share what it is here, but it will keep me busy for a long time. And for that one I absolutely do know what makes me do it: ‘Feeling good and wanting to help others that don’t feel good yet’.
With every choice on a change in approach or activities, to stay in a positive modus operandi you cannot really go wrong. If it was because of trapped in something very negative it can matter to also take some time to say goodbye to an old feeling of attachment in what was controlling you. To be very aware you are going to shift your focus and power towards a choice that makes you more happy and back into more control. It is not just a distraction . . . it is a very conscious act and wish for a change. And believe me, that takes effort. Lots . . . Because do not think that what is controlling you cannot feel like needing it. Even places with loss of control can feel like your comfort zone, just because that has become your way of life telling you that leaving it again will cause anxiety. That’s the ironic part of it all. When you want to escape a place that is controlling your fears, the only way to do that is accept the fears that will come in return for that. No pain no gain, alas. But in the end it will be ok . . . (says the ‘been there, done that’ ghostbuster in me). I so remember that was said to me years ago . . “All will be ok.” And I did not believe a word of it, even considered it cruel to say that to me. It made me feel the loser . . . I NEVER would be ok. Yet here I am, very ok. I owe the ones saying it to me back then an apology.
But ….. nothing is easy.
It always will be a balance between considering a certain risk and stress to be useful or bad and that always will be linked with how you feel and think and control it. At least don’t trap yourself in a belief you never will be at risk. This illusion of invulnerability will work against you when you meet a challenge you always denied to be able to ever happen to you. You will lack mental flexibility and resilience to cope with it in a good way because your mind has no image of vulnerability none whatsoever.
Ergo 1: Taking back a form of control, no matter how small, is a good way to fight stress and prevent further damage.
Ergo 2: Risks are part of life. We have to acknowledge them as possibility and anticipate on the impact of them.
Some research on insecurity causing more stress than knowing something actually will hit you is here. Being prepared makes a difference:
I think in Second Life oxymoronic situations will show itself most in our so beloved battle with love situations. Oops, oxymoron . . . beloved battle. Yes well, what to say on that more than I already did in earlier blogs. We all know the feeling and all struggle with it? Seems like the most fair conclusion to me. No one is free or safe from this torture between attract/reject which makes love so complex. So ermm, don’t ask me what to do when being there, I already hardly know what to do myself when it happens as you know. The eternal struggle between diving deep or stay at the surface never will cease to be present and say: ‘Hi darling, ready for a bittersweet candy at the bottom of my mind’? We should lock all candies down,give them a mask and keep social distance :-P Alas Second Life is immune to lockdowns, or is it YAYYYY Second Life is open! You tell me :))) When I am really honest I think in general it is more YAY / YEA than NAY, but it needs caution. Love is good in itself. Some insecurity is inescapable when it happens. When it starts to eat you however, then maybe use a tool that works best for you to prevent it to become too consuming and unhealthy. That will be a personal choice for everyone and depends on what you can and want to allow in your own life. For me no high-risks, that much is clear.
No better music to add than the Struggle for Pleasure by Wim Mertens.
For me it is the perfect composition to imagine this space between stress and relaxation. A situation we all are in at the moment, all over the world. If Covid-19 has proven something, it is how easily we are affected by interventions we are unable to control very well. Loss of safety and feeling insecure have a huge impact. I see an increase of violence acts at the moment and I simply have to relate them to this state of insecurity. It is not nice to see and I hope it will stabilise again in some way. How I also do not know however. The struggle for pleasure continues . . .
From the website of Wim Mertens:
The Belgian composer Wim Mertens (born 1953) is an international recording and performing artist who has given countless concerts as a soloist and with his ensemble, all over Europe, North and Central America, Japan, Thailand and in Russia. He initially studied at the Conservatory of Brussels and graduated in political and social sciences at the K.U. Leuven and Musicology at the R.U. Gent.