Purpose of polarity

Every challenge is a disguised teacher, teaching us the values of life

Man with one smiling and other sad stress balls

I have learnt silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.

— Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese American artist, poet, and writer best known for his book The Prophet. Since it was first published in 1923, The Prophet has never been out of print. Having been translated into more than 20 languages, it was one of the bestselling books of the twentieth century in the United States.

My interpretation

Through these words, Gibran is reminding us of one of the greatest paradoxes of life: opposites exist to define each other.

Polarities such as sadness/joy, silence/noise, compassion/apathy, and success/failure exist in pairs because, together they make a whole. It's impossible for one to exist without the other. On its own, it would lose all meaning. If we can understand and accept that all pain in our life exists for a reason—to give us an opportunity to experience and understand the exact opposite sentiment of pleasure, we would live a more fulfilled life. The stings of life will hurt less when we know that they serve an important purpose.

But Gibran is reflecting on how we tend to forget this unalterable fact and condemn the 'wrongs' we encounter. We are quick to point a finger at those who are unkind, intolerant or talkative, forgetting that it is because of them that we learn to value kindness, tolerance and silence. He is telling us to accept existence in its totality, with the good, and the bad. In pondering about his ungratefulness to these 'teachers', he gently prods us to remain grateful to life's challenges by viewing them as teachers.

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri likes to call himself an eternal soul disguised, among many things, as a writer. He is the author of more than 1000 published articles — on business management, philosophy and everything in between. He is a certified counsellor and has addressed thousands of students and parents on exam-stress in public seminars. He is the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed book based on powerful ideas of some of the greatest thought leaders. Manoj is Editor and Publisher of Complete Wellbeing.

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