Achieving the Balance of Opposites
As Design Thinkers, Consultants, Architects, Engineers and any profession that relates to people, our job is to strike a balance between opposites or contrasts. No motion is possible without the play of opposites. A car only moves forward because of the presence of the frictional force that tries to pull it back. The same is with human thought. That also moves. We can make someone happy by making his thoughts move.
Great writers and film directors are master of this game. They can make our thoughts move in a fashion that can create happiness and pleasure or provoke us to think deeper. That is why we remember their writings and movies.
Let us study through some examples taken from literature.
Here is an extremely short story (translated) from the famous Bengali writer Bonophool, who was also a doctor. He was a master of writing such half a page story.
The Illiterate Milkman
Bilashbabu is the most illustrious personage in the village. He is renowned figure both in the business and political worlds; he even posses a MA degree. His power and authority in the village knows no bounds. The other day, some of his friends had come to call on him. Every one had gathered in a room, behind closed doors. A melodious female voice was raised in Tagore-songs, liquor was flowing freely.
Suddenly the electric bell in the hall rang out. The servant opened the door to find Horu, the milkman, standing there.
‘No chance of meeting ‘babu’ today.’
‘But ‘babu’ had told me to come today.’
‘You can’t meet him today.’
Horu’s wife was waiting expectantly.
‘Got the money?’
‘Couldn’t meet him today.’
‘Their money has been outstanding for three months. How are we to manage?’
Horu was silent.
His wife said, ‘Let’s stop the milk from tomorrow.’
Horu smiled faintly and said, ‘Are you mad? That’s out of the question. There are three babies in that house, what are they to drink? Their mothers can’t provide for them..’
‘But how are we to manage if they don’t pay us what’s due…’
‘They’ll pay us sometime. What’s the point of getting worked up…’ Horu smiled at his wife.
The milkman is illiterate.
That’s it. How did you like it? Did it appeal to you in some way? Did your thought process move and left you wondering?
Even with such a short story it is possible to move our thoughts when we bring in contrasts or place apparently opposite things side by side or close by enabling our thoughts to move and produce emotions. Let us examine it further:
Some Contrasts in External or Physical Details:
- Despite being in a village Bilashbabu’s house possesses an electric bell: On the other hand, Horu is very poor and he hasn’t got his dues for three months.
- Bilash was a bright student at the university: Horu is illiterate.
- Ladies at Bilash’s house sing Rabindrasangeet: Horu’s wife eagerly awaits her husband, in the hope of a handful of money
Some Contrasts at Deeper Level: (contrasts of human values)
- Women in Bilash’s family refuse to breastfeed their children (possibly not deeply attached to their offsprings): Yet Horu, being an outsider, feels a humane responsibility and affection for the children – so can’t stop the milk supply – although not being paid
- Upper class men who has money but forgets to pay as if it is his right: penniless milkman who requests and begs for his dues though it is his right to get paid.
Here the contrasts/opposites are placed very close to each other and hence the story appeals to our senses since it enables the movement of our thought to take place quickly and subtly.
This apparent paradox of contrasts is the key to success in our profession.