Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Opposites and Complements

Why is it, I wonder, that we know so much about opposites and so little about complements? Opposites are contraries: one opposite negates the other. Complements complete each other; like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, their fit depends on their differences. While opposites transform difference into opposition, complements create a frame for collaboration.

Today I was asked where productive tension fits into a model of integrated thinking. Opposites fight each other and similar entities share space within a frame that has gaps, like the outside part of the circles in a Venn diagram. Neither condition generates something new. Complements are the answer: they are held together by a frame so fine it is only a shared edge, a force that pulls together instead of apart.

Complements fill the whole of the frame by being precisely fitted to one another; where one jigs, the other jags. This can look and sound and feel like opposition until it becomes evident that the frame is full, that the relationship has integrity of both form and energy. This integrity depends on the integration of complements. They must form a whole without overlapping. Each must be entirely itself for the whole to be complete.

Figure and ground. Self and world. Sense and imagination.

Complements.

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