The Beauty of ContradictionsShare
An exploration of your inner contradictions can lead to the discovery of your truest potential and deepest passions.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the beauty of human contradictions. Once upon a time, I thought they were dangerous. Then something happened. For a full year, I pursued a new passion—social innovation—instead of my lifelong love of theater. I was nervous, but I figured that there was no better time to step outside of my comfort zone than my first year of college—a year that would inevitably be filled with nerves and new beginnings. I suspected that this would be a problem but one of those necessary evils in life. Instead, I think, I stumbled upon the future of education.
Here’s what I discovered: though contradictions have become synonymous with dichotomies, they are the shortest, sweetest pathways to finding our true potential and deepest passions. The different aspects of my personality—aspects that I once labeled as contradictory—opened my eyes to my greatest capabilities.
After a childhood spent on stage exploring the importance of “putting your attention on the other person,” a component of the Meisner technique, I have come to bring that practice into my everyday life. It is, in fact, one of the primary reasons why I’m determined to cultivate empathy in the classroom—the practice of wholeheartedly listening and fully understanding the feelings and perspectives of others. Two parts of myself that I used to consider so different from each other—the actress and social innovator—have, in turn, shaped one my greatest life goals: redefining classrooms as places of empathy for everyone, everywhere. I believe that cultivating empathy in students will not only enhance their own capabilities, but will also eliminate so much of the bullying and other hindering social qualities that infiltrate the current school systems. This is just my vision of a future classroom, but what I love about it is that it came to me through exploration of my contradictions, not any clean path.
But this is not a lesson taught in American schools today. Subjects are siloed. Early on, students are put into categories. I, for one, was put into the ‘theater’ category, and because of that, went through phases where I lost faith in my other abilities. I fell in love with my US history class during my junior year, and I didn’t really know what to do with that love, because I was the theater girl— history was never my ‘thing.’ And then I came to realize that theater and history complement each other beautifully—they are two of the most powerful storytelling mechanisms. And, coincidentally, storytelling is one of the most effective ways to cultivate empathy. Everything connects. And through these connects, new passions and new abilities come to light, giving you extraordinary power to change the world by introducing something new into it.
The organization at which I serve as chief intern is trying to do this every day—to unearth and embrace the contradictions of young people by encouraging them to pursue their many passions and fuse them into one project that changes the world and electrifies their school. It’s called The Future Project. The most interesting thing to me about it is that The Future Project reminds us that there is no reason to eliminate every traditional teaching technique to make change. Instead, students need a new pathway, a new conversation. They need to approach these methods from new perspectives. I urge you to share your ideas on how we can ensure that all students feel confident in their abilities to confront their contradictions by commenting below, or by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.