I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand. Charles Schulz


The decade of our sixties is full of ambiguity, mixed emotions, and uncertainty. To quote my friend, Patti, “After the age of 60 you don’t get to feel one way about anything.” So it’s a great time to celebrate the contradictions at the heart of our lives by reading and quoting paradoxical statements.

After a visit to Dylan Thomas’s house in Wales, I framed and hung a quotation from his “Under Milkwood”- “Oh, isn’t life a terrible thing, thank God?” This is clearly a paradoxical statement- one that captures two contradictory ideas, but which, on closer inspection, contains a truth that reconciles the conflicting opposites. So why would Thomas want to thank God if he felt that life was so terrible? That seems contradictory. On reflection, though, the meaning of the word terrible goes beyond fearful and difficult to encompass such synonyms as formidable, shocking, intense, awe-ful, or even extraordinary. So Thomas is grateful that life is the opposite of boring; it burns with an intensity that inspires his poetry, and he is grateful for that fact.

Paradoxical statements should be required reading for 60 somethings to shake up our thoughts, alter our perceptions, and see the world with fresh eyes. Here are a baker’s dozen.

• The more things change, the more they remain the same. – Alphonse Karr
• Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do. – Edgar Degas
• I want to die young at a ripe old age. – Ashley Montagu
• We have to believe in free will. We’ve got no other choice. – Isaac Bashevis Singer
• Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that can happen to a man.- Leon Trotsky
• Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses and disappointments. – Joseph Addison
• The greatest hate springs from the greatest love.- Thomas Fuller
• In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it. – Oscar Wilde
• The chief object of education is not to learn things but to unlearn things. – G.K. Chesterton
• The best place to hide anything is in plain view. – Edgar Allen Poe
• Even in a palace life may be lived well. – Marcus Aurelius
• Melancholy is the pleasure of being sad. –Victor Hugo
• You’d be surprised how much it costs to look this cheap. –Dolly Parton

Categories: ambiguity, paradox, truth, wisdom

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