In one of my favorite poems, The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran describes the relationship between sorry and joy as proportionate.
He eloquently writes that as our ability to fathom joy expands, our comprehension of joy increases in step.
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
I think the concept Gibran describes also applies to a great many other diametric opposites.
Take patience as another example. My dad always jokes, “I prayed for patience, so God gave me twins.” Maybe patience came at the cost of endurance over time. Ironically, patience took time.
Henry David Thoreau provides another example: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” In other words, the more a man becomes content without, the more abundantly wealthy he becomes – if even only in spirit.
Perhaps fear and courage are no strangers to this same phenomenon.
Think about the way people learn to express courage. It starts small. Incremental gains lead to larger challenges. For instance, a kid first scared to ride without training wheels soon becomes a kid getting back up after falling off his bike.
The more you fear something, the more you bring it to life. The larger it looms over your head, the more courage facing this fear requires. Yet, the larger fears you approach head on, the more courage you earn – establishing a new “courage baseline.”
These relationships provide an interesting thought experiment about how we should approach our actual desires.
What I’m trying to get at is that maybe striving for more of something, like happiness or wealth, is futile.
Maybe a better approach is to strive for the opposite. And only by knowing the opposite condition can we become more intimately prepared for our actual goal.