Liberate yourself from absolutes

OK, I admit it. I’ve become a member of a social networking site.

“Every man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.” ­— Mark Twain, American author and humorist

OK, I admit it. I’ve become a member of a social networking site.

In fact, I’ve been a member for some time and have done the obligatory posting of vacation and family pictures. I’ve also posted fascinating tidbits about my life such as, “Today I cleaned the garage,” and “Today they paved my street.” Some time back I started posting what I thought were inspiring quotes. I would log back onto the network later to discover that a few people “liked” the quote while others had left comments such as, “I agree,” or “Wow, that sure applies to my life.”

Something interesting happened one day when I posted a quote but failed to attribute it to the author. No doubt, believing the quote was written by me, members began to leave longer comments about how they enjoyed the quote and agreed with the sentiment or how they disagreed completely with it. Some even challenged me as to why my life was not a living reflection of the affirmation. One wise individual (my editor) sent me a message saying that he recognized the quote and reminded me of the importance of a proper attribution to the author.

At first, I wanted to delete the people who had challenged the quote or criticized me.

I felt each quote represented a fundamental truth about life — how dare they question it?

Then I thought to myself, “Let’s peel the onion a little further.” No one had challenged the quotes I had posted when I named the author: Einstein, Socrates, Mark Twain or Niels Bohr. The fact they had challenged the unattributed quote started me pondering. First, as I was not a noted luminary, people obviously felt comfortable challenging my assertions.

Second, said noted luminaries probably faced challenges and resistance when they first put forth their “radical” views. Third, we tend to accept the authoritative statements of certain “wise” folk as true — as part of the considered body of truth but are they? Should we, perhaps, be peeling the onion?

My favourite quote by Niels Bohr reads, “The opposite of a correct statement is an incorrect statement, but the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.”

Bohr was a Danish physicist who made fundamental contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.

I was intrigued by Bohr’s “opposites” statement as it seemed unusual for a scientist. I think Bohr’s statement touches on a big idea. I’d like to share my interpretation. Most of us would agree that if one idea is true then the opposite of said idea must be false. Can the opposite of something that is true also be true?

Mark L. Fox, author of the bestseller Da Vinci and the 40 Answers and former Chief Engineer for the NASA Space Shuttle Program, says yes and, according to Fox, it depends upon which side of the brain you ask.

The human brain is divided into two hemispheres: the left and the right. The hemispheres of the brain are equal but opposite. The left brain is logical and deductive; it uses analytical thought. To the left brain, there are only ever two possibilities: right or wrong. The right brain, however, is emotional and intuitive — the dwelling place of creativity and imagination. Specific definitions do not exist in the right brain ­— there are no absolutes. The right brain is free of the handcuffs of what we “know” to be true.

It would appear that flashes of insight and quantum shifts in thinking are the result of a blending of the two hemispheres — a melding of what is known, logical and accepted with what we can imagine as possible.

This was Fox’s experience working with the Space Shuttle Program. Few of the great challenges he and his team faced were overcome by application of pure logic. If you’re going to see what has not been seen before, you’re going to have to escape the concrete rules of reality and perception. All great leaps forward occurred because someone looked beyond what was held to be true at the time. Search your own life and you’ll discover two interesting opposites: the truth of who you are in this moment and the truth of who you can become with awareness and persistence.

One exists only in locked-down left-brain logic while the other dwells in the endless possibilities inherent in the imaginative, intuitive right brain.

To quote Fox, “To think of new things, the world or even yourself in a different way, you’ll need to escape the fear of judgment by your peers, coworkers, boss, neighbours, friends, family and society.”

If you want to enhance your level of self-esteem and enjoy a life that’s vibrant, positive and in keeping with what you most desire, you are going to need to shift your thinking; you will need to introduce the element of possibility into the equation.

Bohr understood that a willingness to challenge the impossible and embrace the imaginable unlocked the door to evolutionary thinking.

He realized there was sometimes truth in the opposite of a correct statement. In order to be able to escape the left brain’s reverence for absolutes, you have to be able to play. You must develop the willingness to say yes to the absurd, to the impulse, and to start having fun again as you often did when you were a child.

My friends, in challenging my unattributed assertions, showed me reasons why the statement was incorrect or inaccurate to me and how the opposite of the statement might be also true. Imagine a better life for yourself.

Consider what you believe to be true about yourself and then free your imaginative/creative right brain to allow for all the possibilities available.

Murray Fuhrer is a local self-esteem expert and facilitator. Check the Extreme Esteem website at

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