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Friday, March 02, 2007

The Borders of Husker Nation

This has truly become the off-season of our discontent.

The fibers of Husker Nation have been tattered, if not torn by a bleak mid-winter of scandal, change and scorn.

Philosopher and consciousness expert Ken Wilber postulates that every decision we make, every action we take is based on the construction, (whether conscious or unconscious) of boundaries. Boundaries between you and I, between us and them, between similar and dissimilar, between war and peace, between life and death. Existence, then, as we know it is a process of drawing boundaries. At first blush this act seems both inevitable and harmless. Unfortunately, a natural consequence of this is the creation of opposites.

Expectations or recollections. Solich or Callahan. Privacy or Disclosure. Pederson or Shatel. The Past or the Future.

Husker Nation must now recognize that each of these boundary lines also becomes a potential battle line. Every hire and every fire arms the divergent sides. Every coming and every going strengthens conflicting opinions. The new reality is that to draw a boundary, is to prepare oneself for conflict.

The problems facing Husker Nation are problems of boundaries and the opposites they create. Our usual way of solving these problems is to attempt to eliminate one of the opposites. We handle the problem of good vs. evil, by trying to exterminate evil. We handle the problem of change by gripping tightly to the status quo. The point is that we treat the boundary as real and then manipulate the opposites created by this boundary. We never question the existence of the boundary itself. Because we then believe the boundary to be real, we steadfastly imagine that the opposites are irreconcilable, separate, forever set apart.

But what if the boundaries aren’t real? What if by seeking to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, we have forgotten entirely that the positive is defined only in terms of the negative? In other words, while the opposites might indeed be as different as night and day, we must recognize that without night we would not even be able to recognize something called day. Without Nebraska football’s past, its future would be unimaginable. Without Devaney, there is no Osborne. Without Osborne, no Solich. Without Solich, no Callahan.

However vividly the differences between these opposites may strike us, they nevertheless remain completely inseparable and mutually interdependent, for the simple reason that the one could not exist without the other. There is no inside without an outside, no up without down, no win without loss, no pleasure without pain, no life without death. This is what Nicholas of Cusa called the coincidentia oppositorum – “the coincidence of opposites”. What we thought were totally separate and irreconcilable opposites turn out to be complimentary aspects of one and the same reality.

Thus, to destroy the negative is, at the same time to destroy all possibilities of enjoying the positive.

Like it or not Nebraska football’s past and its future, like all opposites are fated to intimately embrace one another for all time.

The point is not to separate the opposites and make progress, but rather to unify and harmonize the opposites, both positive and negative, by discovering a ground which transcends and encompasses them both. This common ground refers to an ultimate reality that is a union of the opposites.

What then will serve as Husker Nation’s union of opposites? Firing Callahan? Firing Steve Pederson? Tom Osborne as A.D? The easy answer is winning. Win enough and the opposites will be realized as one. With a sixth national title, the past will become the future. Discord will melt into concord. Battles will become celebrations, and old enemies will become allies. Then, and perhaps only then, will we find ourselves in a position to make friends with all of Husker Nation, and not just one half of it.

*Special mention needs to be made of the work of Ken Wilber, without this I would have been unable to illustrate these points.