When does a square become a circle?
(Hint: it’s a matter of degree)
When does a square become a circle? – That sounds like a zen paradox.
Uh oh, I’m afraid to ask what a zen paradox is.
That last round of cosmic thinking still has my head spinning.
The great Zen master Hakuin Ekaku asks us to ponder:
“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
A zen statement like that is meant to help you break through to a new style of thinking, a new awareness.
Often, this breakthrough is interpreted to mean getting past simple dualities— black/white, true/false, yes/no— and to burst into a higher plane of understanding where everything is one, where you become one with everything else. A zen paradox is meant to help you reach enlightenment. Burst out of your current plane of existence and transcend.
There are many interpretations of the classic Zen texts. I will share my own thoughts. My flavor means a statement that seems to conflict with itself, but in some unexpected way it helps you reach a deeper meaning. The logical paradox that can’t be resolved easily is meant to snap you out of customary, limited thinking and reach a deeper understanding or enlightenment that connects to the deeper meaning of oneness: that everyone and everything is connected.
Here’s another paradox to jingle you:
“This sentence is not true.”
Hang on, if the sentence is true then it’s false. If it’s false, then it is true. If the sentence is not true, then it’s false. But the sentence says it is not true so then it is true…
And here is a Zen-like paradox in the form of a drawing, a visual denial of logic:
We will encounter more of these visual paradoxes later, as well as seemingly paradoxical thoughts that can lead you to new places and insights.