Pythagorean Contraries

Sheila dances on the proscenium, that space between the curtain and the orchestra where the stage meets the pit. You believe in one-to-one correspondence. Two things cannot exist in the same realm equally. It must be one or the other, black or white. Sheila believes life provides an amalgamation of gray values. Life is a collection of perfection and errors all mixed up together. It is a series of consensus decisions heedless of the domination of majority rules. The half-full cup is half empty. The mother’s and daughter’s voices sound the same over the phone. Humans are solid yet elusive, illusory but concrete, singular while multiple. Dried dead roses smell like spring. 

Declarations become set in stone and are broken. Defensive truths and proclamations are modified to meet the needs of the defender. Behavior and consequences are dependent upon more behaviors. Closure and conclusions are elusive. The relationship, a body of knowledge, and connections are open to reinterpretation time and again. Profound meanings are suspect. Depth sentimentalizes. The methodological defense of a singular idea is linear and exclusive. 

The Ten Pythagorean contraries discussed by Aristotle in Metaphysics are older than Plato or Aristotle. The pairs of contraries are: limited/unlimited, odd/even, one/plurality, right/left, male/female, resting/moving, straight/curved, light/dark, good/bad, square/oblong. These are hierarchical pairs. Hierarchy is a word that has been used loosely in the late twentieth century especially as it relates to feminist politics and issues of peace and justice. I use it here as a system of rule or dominion in holy things. Those things that our culture holds holy that I address in my work are the classic, beauty, reality, the normal, youth, and form. A hierarchy exists in opposition to and in concurrence with the complete mutability and immutability of the sign found in language as discussed by Ferdinand de Saussure. 

In the boundary we can shift the way information is seen, artists can change the worldview by dissection and coupling hierarchical pairs. From the point of view within the boundary, light is inhabited by dark just as darkness is inhabited by light. In every yes there is a no. It is within our limits that we find unlimited strength. Stretched across the earth’s surface, the straight becomes curved. In everything bad there is good. With age, men become matronly. Nothing lines up the way we thought it did when we were thirteen.

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