A child had been playing with a ball, one half of which was red, while the other half was colored green. Two visitors sat opposite each other, and conversed across a table on which the hall rested. One saw only the red portion of the ball, the other saw only the green. After leaving the house, one incidentally mentioned the red ball; thereupon the other remarked, “No, it is a green ball.” Then the first man contradicted, “You are wrong, it is a red ball." Then arose a protracted altercation, and each was so sure of his ground, and so fully convinced that the other was wrong, that the thought of admitting each in himself the possibility of error, and going back to the ball for a more thorough explanation could not enter their minds. Finally they separated very much disturbed, and each secretly condemning the other for his lack of perception and bad judgment. Both men stated the truth about the portion of the ball which they saw, but while the ball was both red and green, it was neither a green ball nor a red one, but a red and green one. The child knew.
Now the above is a parable. The ball is Life, the child is Wisdom, and the two men are the partisans and controversialists.
Life and the universe are made up of combinations of opposites. Each man sees the side which is most prominently presented to his consciousness, and he regards it as the whole of life, and maintains it to be the truth, contradicting presentments of the other aspects of life as false. Wisdom sees the perfect sphericity of life, and beholds all apparent contradictions and extremes bound together in one grand eternal reconciliation.
The pessimist sees only the dark side of life. He sees the pain and misery, the sorrow and death, and he despairs because of the blackness of life. The optimist sees only the light side of life. He sees the pleasure and comfort, the gladness and happy unions, and he is elated because of the brightness of life. Each sees correctly, but he sees only one half of life. Pessimism is not life; it is despair. Optimism is not life; it is hope. The wise man is done with both hope and despair, elation and depression; he has found the “golden mean" which avoids extremes. He is neither an optimist nor a pessimist; he sees things as they are.
Men form themselves into opposing camps under the banners of Materialism and Spiritualism, Agnosticism and Christianity, Annihilation and Immortality, and carry on, from age to age, the warfare of words which sometimes leads to blows. Yet, in every instance, both sides are stating the truth about a particular aspect of life. The contradictions are apparent only; in the reality of things all aspects are harmoniously related.
Prejudice sees only that which it wishes to see. Wisdom has no personal wishes; it sees that which is.
Plain are the visible, material facts of life; equally plain are the invisible, spiritual facts of life. Knowledge is possessed, but it is surrounded by the shores of the Unknown. Life is sure; of the same surety also is death. Materialism and Spirituality are one; the Known and the Unknown are one; life and death are one.
One says, “Man is immortal." Another says, “Man is mortal." The wise man is silent, having found the middle way.
Opposites are not separate; they exist by virtue of each other; they are the converse sides of the same thing, and are eternally reconciled. Man, introducing an arbitrary separation between them, produces suffering and sorrow and strife.
Always half the world is in light and half in darkness; half mankind is in life and half in death; half in tears and half in laughter; man is compounded of mind and matter. Wisdom stands poised, silent, serene, midway between all extremes.
To see the harmonious relations of all opposites; to reconcile all extremes; to be gentle, selfless, and free from contention—that it is to have returned Home in peace; that it is to be at rest in The Great Reconciliation.
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.