Vicar’s Reflection: OS 23, September 10th, 2017
What happens if an irresistible force meets an immovable object? This paradox is as old as the third century before Christ, at least in China; as this story from the Book of Han Fei-tzu reveals. There was a certain merchant who sold both spears and shields. When asked how good his spears were, he said that they could pierce any shield. Then, when asked how good his shields were, he said they could resist all spear attacks. Someone asked what would happen if he were to take one of his spears to strike one of his shields; and he could not answer. From this the Chinese word for paradox is pinyin (Sheild/ Spear). The paradox is apparent, not real. Nothing is truly immovable, and nothing is truly irresistible. Einstein’s theory of relativity makes it clear that all motion is relative, and resistance to movement, or inertia, is related to mass which is not infinite. Even the earth, which seems immovable, is travelling around the sun at over 100,000 kilometres per hour. Nevertheless, arguing with stubborn and difficult persons such as certain politicians, when your position is unquestionably right may well seem like the paradox we began with. In the Gospel reading today (Matt 18:15-20) Jesus gives some guidelines on how to deal with disagreements. He advises a staged approach, and if all else fails to agree to differ and go different ways. -Still good advice today.