Paradoxes can be fascinating. They tickle and exercise the mind and can stimulate you to reflect on things in novel and interesting ways.
It’s thought that paradoxes are nothing but formal and abstract oddities that philosophers and logicians can amuse themselves with, but many of them can have an uncanny amount of practical significance that almost anyone would do well to give some thought to.
To prove this, writer, podcaster, and owner of the Write of Passage writing school, David Perell, took to Twitter on April 5 and created a thought-provoking thread listing what he described as 13 “Paradoxes of Modern Life.”
All of them are worth thinking about. Here are just a few of them and what they mean for daily life.
Some of Perell’s interesting quips on this thread have to do with how we take in information, like his “paradox of reading”: “The books you read will profoundly change you even though you’ll forget the vast majority of what you read.”
Depending on how avid a reader you are, you might go through hundreds or even thousands of books in a lifetime. It’s obviously impossible to remember all of that information. But everyone can name a few books that they read which gave them unforgettable experiences, taught them extremely valuable information, or otherwise made them into better people.
Other paradoxes that Perell mentions have to do with how we produce and create information.
For instance, good writing is easy to read, but making complex information digestible requires a great deal of thought and effort, which can go unappreciated by those who read good writing.
What we call originality, paradoxically, can often be the result of an artist or writer mixing and matching his influences in ways that make it hard for people to see how he put his work together. And thus, something looks original that may not really be. On the other hand, it seems obvious that genuine originality is impossible since everything has precursors. And yet, we all know of works of art that were “game-changers” which founded whole styles and movements.
In our modern world, with endless information at our fingertips, Perell’s Paradox of Abundance becomes especially poignant: Having more information is good, but having too much of it makes most information indigestible and therefore useless. A glut of information, for all practical purposes, might be indistinguishable from having none at all.
What person living in the modern world hasn’t felt the power of Perell’s Productivity Paradox? The more labor-and-time-saving devices we invent, the less time it feels like we have. The more we can produce, the more we seem to want.
And then, to those who prize self-awareness and self-criticism, there’s the Paradox of Consensus, which was also once beautifully expressed by Oscar Wilde: “Whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong.”
Too much agreement that comes too easily is often a signal of systemic error, and dissent is important to keep us all honest.
To see all of Perell’s Paradoxes and the many comments and additions that have been made to them by others, check out his Twitter thread.