Updated: Aug 4, 2020
My super friend Veronica, who was there for me when I had a flat tire on New Year's Day 2016 (Oh, I see what you did there, 2016. That was a funny omen.), was recently telling me about Core Contradictions. I'm not sure if she made up the concept or not, but she's damn smart, so I am going to assume she did. Your Core Contradiction is the dichotomy that lives at the base of your soul. It is competing desires that you rule your potential happiness and are diametrically opposed to one another. Much like the movie Dragon Heart, your heart is split in two. You cannot live without both hearts, but each heart is also sort of trying to kill each other.
For example, maybe you deeply want a life of financial stability and not having to worry about health insurance or paid time off, but your deepest passion is theater. Your soul cannot be satiated if you are not pursuing a career on the stage, but that pursuit will forever be tarnished by your nagging need to know exactly how much you are making month-to-month. Your two greatest needs are not compatible.
Maybe you are a deeply spiritual person whose identity and happiness is connected to a conservative religious belief system, but you are also gay and identify deeply with your not-safe-for-church sexuality. It is impossible to live your joint identities as fully as you desire.
Maybe you are deeply committed to finding a partner that will challenge you and impress you with their ambition, but you know you will only be happy with people that spend more quality time with you than they do pushing themselves to succeed.
When Veronica shared her theory of Core Contradiction with me, I knew immediately what mine is. I hold in me simultaneous and indestructible desires for rootedness and nomadism.
I think that shades of these core contradictions live in many people, right? There are a lot of us out there who want to settle in a home and also set up homes around the world. Similarly, there are a lot of us who struggle with celebrating community values and celebrating our individuality at the same time, and a lot of us want to both "follow our bliss" and "follow the money." Your Core Contradiction does not make you special. For a lot of us, though, these common contradictions can be soothed with compromise. You will settle in a place you love and make travel a priority. You will go to church on Sundays after going to a queer party on Saturday and open yourself up to the parts of each that heal you. I think the key to the Core Contradiction theory is that compromise is not an option. Compromise does not make it better. The Core Contradiction can't really be solved.
I love where I live. I love our little house and our amazing friends. I will fight someone who picks on Philadelphia. I have been around the world and told people how fantastic this city is. But there I am - around the world - thinking, "We should live here." I am so scared of staying in this place I love forever. Rachel and I talk about what living in Japan would be like. I constantly research PhD programs in France. I know that in either of those situations I would miss that feeling of being from somewhere. There is just no geographic calm for my soul.
There is this movie that they show in France in Epcot (at least they did back in 2006). There is a voice over a scene with hot air balloons taking flight that really resonated with me:
"They leave for the sake of leaving, and without knowing why they say, 'We must go now.'"
Similarly - in my mind - there is that dialogue from au Bout de Souffle:
"Quel est votre plus grande ambition dans la vie?" "Devenir immortel. Et puis mourir."
These feel connected to me.
So that's me! But beyond my own conflicting desires, I am simply fascinated by the idea that we all have a deep fissure in us that is connected to our diverse experiences and values (Well, "all" is a big word. I am sure there are some folks out there whose desires make up one happy whole.). While we can certainly be happy in general and content with our life, these parts of us are never satisfied. I am fascinated by the choices we make to try to contend with our Core Contradiction.
In other news, my friend Veronica is a genius - right down to her Core Contradiction.