Scott Buchanan Mrs. Poma English Honors / Block H 28 May 2009 Tension of Opposites One of the greatest aspects of humanity is that no two people are identical; rather, every individual has his own perspective, beliefs, and ideas. This discrepancy among opinions is the basis for all conflicts and arguments. However, these conflicts can be beneficial, as two opposing sides may negotiate with each other to reach a verdict that is more acceptable than either of the sides’ views alone.
In Tuesdays with Morrie, written by Mitch Albom, this universal concept is described by Morrie as the “tension of opposites,” and it frequently occurs in society as well as within the novel itself.
Mitch experiences this theme firsthand in the novel as his personality before reuniting with Morrie severely contrasts with his personality thereafter. Before his vital realization with Morrie, Mitch was obsessed with work. He was “cranked to a fifth gear,” as he “buried [himself] in accomplishments, because with accomplishments… [he] could squeeze in every last piece of happiness before [he] got sick and died,” (p16-17).
However, Mitch arrogantly believed that wealth and success would lead to his happiness, while friends and relations were merely obstacles. Through these ideologies, Mitch became conceited and snobbish. Once he encountered Morrie, however, he saw the errors of his ways and decided to turn over a new leaf. No longer did he strive to achieve immense accomplishments, but rather be thankful for what he already had. He learned that money is not nearly as important as friendship and family.
This sharp contrast between his two personalities represents two sides of society: those who are greedy and strive for “synthetic” happiness, and those who truly understand what is important and achieve genuine happiness. Thus, the “tension of opposites” that existed between Mitch’s initial personality and Morrie’s personality allowed Mitch to straighten out his priorities and improve his life. Another portrayal of the “tension of opposites” occurs in the novel between Morrie and the rest of society. This difference in attitude is what made Morrie somewhat of a celebrity.
Having many years of experience and a firsthand encounter with a deadly disease, Morrie could analyze his life and provide wisdom on how to make the most of life by reaching one’s full potential before time runs out. Such philosophies that Morrie possessed could only be attained from many years of experience. Thus, they are directly contradictory to the naive and unwitting attitudes of the youths of society. For example, Morrie appreciated the few months of life he had left and was actually happy that his disease allowed him to spend so much time with all of the people who truly care for him.
Children, on the other hand, do not appreciate the vast amount of time and wide range of opportunity that they still have. Instead, they are actually in a hurry to grow up and envy those who are old enough to experience the corresponding privileges, such as driving and voting. They do not comprehend that these privileges will come in time, and that they should make the most of their current situation while they still have it, instead of anticipating future events. Therefore, Morrie became famous for the “tension of opposites” that existed between his erudite attitude and that of the average person.
In today’s society, the “tension of opposites” between individuals plays a major role. Courts, for example, are solely designed to solve the “tension of opposites” that exists between two parties when they cannot settle it themselves. An instance of this appeared throughout Tuesdays with Morrie, which was the O. J. Simpson Case, during which O. J. Simpson was tried to murder of his ex-wife. O. J. Simpson’s opinion towards the case was that he was innocent, whereas the police department believed that he was guilty. After a lengthy trial, the jury settled the “tension of opposites” in favor of O.
J. Simpson, indicating that he was innocent of all charges. Another role of the “tension of opposites” is between political parties. Parties, such as democrats and republicans, have different opinions on taxes, government, and equality. During an election, the citizens, consisting of many different parties, attempt to decide which candidate should become president. Thus, having the “tension of opposites” is beneficial, for it provides a greater variety of options. For example, having a democratic president may be more helpful to the country than a republican during one ear, but detrimental during another. Allowing the citizens to choose who rules over them guarantees that the choice is in favor of the majority of people. In some countries, however, the government eliminates the “tension of opposites. ” In Vietnam, for instance, communism is enforced, thereby equalizing all people and eliminating any differences. Without these differences, everyone would be in harmonious agreement. However, in all cases, communism has never worked because it is simply not in human nature to for all people to be exactly alike.
In America, on the other hand, capitalism is utilized, insuring a free enterprise system. Therefore, different companies compete with each other for business. During the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s, for example, an oil company known as Standard Oil was dominant by far over any other companies within the trade, thereby forming a monopoly. In 1911, the government split the company up into 34 smaller individual companies. Therefore, opposition and competition would occur. Thus, the “tension of opposites” not only occurs frequently in many aspects of today’s society, but rather it is necessary to sustain balance.
The idea of the “tension of opposites” is a very universal theme that simply indicates that in any area of life, individuals will have different opinions. In Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch experienced this tension as he associated with Morrie, whose ideologies on values were in direct contrast with his own. Morrie’s philosophies on appreciation and gratitude also clashed with those of people with less experience than he. In today’s modern world, examples can be seen all around, such as in court, elections, and within the economy. Overall, the “tension of opposites” is vital for the stability and wellbeing of society.
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