Saturday, December 8, 2007

Newton's third law

I promised an explanation for what I said in my last post, As I learned in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So my wishes are mere fantasies of what I perceive to be better for us—for me—when looking at the little picture.

When I wrote it, I meant that there are two sides to every story, every person, every situation. Newton's third law says, paraphrased, "To every action force there is an equal, but opposite, reaction force," I meant to apply this principle to every aspect of life.

According to Wikipedia, "A more direct translation is: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts. — Whatever draws or presses another is as much drawn or pressed by that other. If you press a stone with your finger, the finger is also pressed by the stone. If a horse draws a stone tied to a rope, the horse (if I may so say) will be equally drawn back towards the stone: for the distended rope, by the same endeavour to relax or unbend itself, will draw the horse as much towards the stone, as it does the stone towards the horse, and will obstruct the progress of the one as much as it advances that of the other. If a body impinge upon another, and by its force change the motion (momentum) of the other, that body also (because of the equality of the mutual pressure) will undergo an equal change, in its own motion (momentum), toward the contrary part. The changes made by these actions are equal, not in the velocities but in the motions of the bodies."

Similar to the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang, my view is that, for good reason, there are opposite sides to everything: Love vs. Hate, Good vs. Evil, Hot vs. Cold, Dark vs. Light, Old age vs. Youth, Optimism vs. Pessimism, Kindness vs. cruelty, and on and on. Our inclination is to want the good without the evil, the light without the dark. Love without hate. Sunshine without stormy weather. Would we appreciate it if we had it that way? It seems to take one to recognize and appreciate the other. Wikipedia says, Yin (dark) and yang (light) are descriptions of complementary opposites as well as absolutes. Any yin/yang dichotomy can be viewed from another perspective. All forces in nature can be seen as existing in yin or yang states, and two produce constant movement/force of the universe.

I'd like to make the world all peace, love, light, and safety, and I do everything I can to create such an environment for loved ones. Yet, if I had unlimited supernatural powers to make everyone agree with me, would the world be a better place? I don't think so. I also understand that whatever I write on my blog puts me at risk for experiencing an opposing force. And for me, a person who has always shrunk from controversy, that's important to know. Not everyone is going to agree with my words, my premises, my convictions, or my way of expressing myself (all of which are dynamic, subject to revision as I encounter new experiences, listen to opposing views, study new ideas, and interact with people who stimulate thought). By putting my ideas in public view, I become vulnerable to criticism and censor. This is true, not only in posting blogs, but in writing books and articles and in public speaking. However, in order to have a meaningful life and to be able to explore and mold my identity, it's a risk I must take. But isn't that a good thing? I find that it is opposition, questioning, criticism, and censor that makes me look harder at myself, my beliefs, and my writing to help me grow as a person as well as a writer.

Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash. Louis Aragon (1897-1982) French poet, novelist, and essayist.

Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence. William Blake (1757-1827) British poet and painter.

Next time: The big versus the little picture or withholding judgement.


Mary Cunningham said...

Very interesting post, Janet. To me, the most dangerous person in the world is the one who refuses to change his/her opinion, i.e., refuses to grow even in the face of new and ever-changing information.

My pet peeve is being confronted by narrow-minded, tunnel-visioned people.

I don't want my opinion to be the only opinion. What a boring, stagnant world this would be!

Janet Grace Riehl said...

Janet...yes, a risk we must take...also, the light/dark and so on oppositional view exists on the relative level...and there is also an absolute level (the Taoist circle, for instance) within which these become one and whole. This is the place to go back to for refreshment.


Beth Hodder said...


I agree with you, and want to express my feelings about this statement of yours: "I find that it is opposition, questioning, criticism, and censor that makes me look harder at myself, my beliefs, and my writing to help me grow as a person as well as a writer."

I recently published my first novel, and without people like you, Florence Ore, who edited my book as well as providing helpful guidance along the way, and two women whom I met in New Mexico who spent many, many hours helping me with final edits, my book would have been a much poorer one. It's difficult to listen to criticism, no matter on what level or topic, but it sometimes turns the light on, making us better people. To get the true picture, I feel we must learn to embrace it as well as what compliments we get.

Beth Hodder