Binary thinking

Suspension bridge

I’ve written before about left and right brained thinking. One of the characteristics of left-brained thinkers is that they think in binary. The left side of the brain deals in patterns so thoughts and concepts are put into boxes: an object is a table or a chair or it’s a wall or a door; an idea is science or pseudoscience. Sceptics and Atheists are left brained thinkers. There are few exceptions to that

One of the arguments of Atheists is what I call the ‘Atheist’s question’. It comes in many forms: If God is all good, why do bad things happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are people grateful to God when they survive a calamity that God caused in the first place? They are essentially the same question and the assumption is that there are ‘good’ things and there are ‘bad’ things. So who decides what is good or bad?

In Islam there are the 99 names or attributes of God. It is said that God is infinite but He has a finite number of attributes. There are 99 names from the Quran and it is said that there are 600 or so more in the Old Testament. These name are by no means only ‘good’. These include:

AS-SALAM — The Perfection and Giver of Peace
AL-QAHHAR — The Subduer, The Ever-Dominating

AR-RAAFI’ — The Exalter, The Elevator
AL-KHAAFIDH — The Reducer, The Abaser

AL-GHAFOOR — The Forgiving, The Exceedingly Forgiving
AL-MUNTAQIM — The Avenger

AL-MUHYEE — The Giver of Life
AL-MUMEET — The Bringer of Death, the Destroyer

For every attribute there is its opposite. Life can only come with death; mercy with punishment, etc. This is the purpose of creation so that the soul in human form can appreciate the wonders of God by experiencing the polarity. Of course, in absolute terms this implies a polarised universe but it is through an understanding of the subtleties that we understand how the absolutes manifest themselves.

It’s as if the universe is suspended between two opposite poles: male and female; positive and negative; order and chaos, etc. A metaphor is a suspension bridge. These bridges work by using two towers that are pulled each way by heavy cables. The weight of the road and traffic is so small in comparison to the stresses on the cables that the bridge easily supports the weight.

In the Quran there are passages that emphasis how the Muslims will be successful (and even the biggest detractors cannot deny the success of Islam), but there are passages warning of great perils to come and warning against hubris. The passages emphasising success were generally revealed when the Muslims appeared to suffer setbacks, and the passages warning of hubris were revealed when the armies appeared to be successful.

In the I-Ching, each interpretation emphasises this polarity. It is the ‘book of changes’ (or cycles). So what is on top now will change. Enjoy what you can from the moment of success because nothing is forever. If you are going through a setback then appreciate the lessons you can learn. For instance in the interpretation of hexagram 51 — Zhen (Shocking) we are given the metaphor of a roller coaster. The shock can be exhilarating — shock brings success. And the roller coaster is a physical example of cycles. In this article I illustrate how life is cycles.

How different is this from the Atheist’s simplistic good/bad outlook on things?

By Philip Braham on .




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