The Pendulum of the Mind: Between Sense and Nonsense

“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.” ~ Carl Jung

Out beyond notions of possible and impossible there is a mysterious space where radical creativity is free to take place –I dare you to meet me there. Between time and timelessness there is a third thing: imagination.

In this sacred-between, within this transcendent space, even the impossible is possible: squared circles, four-sided triangles, two plus two equals five. Indeed. On a long enough timeline, the probability of anything is everything.

What’s faster than the speed of light?

Thought; imagination; vision. You can imagine light moving between Alpha Centauri and Earth quicker than the light takes to get there. You might ask: well, so what? How does any of this matter in the “real world?”

Good question. Or rather: good question perceptually; bad question actually. Perceptually, things need to make sense; actually, they don’t. At the end of the day, we must be okay with making an extremely low percentage of “sense” out of an exceedingly high degree of overwhelming nonsense. Make sense? Pun intended.

Perhaps one way to make sense out of the universe is to embrace nonsense.

Maybe imagination is more powerful than knowledge, as Einstein suggested. After all, it did take him imagining himself riding a photon through space in order to come up with the theory of relativity. It makes no “sense” that Prometheus could steal fire from the gods and bring it back as a gift to us mortals.

It’s nonsense on top of nonsense. And yet, it somehow makes sense. Perhaps the only reason the “pendulum of the mind” oscillates is because of the illusion of the clock which contains it. Between sense and nonsense there is a third thing: meaning. And with Meaning we can create and destroy gods.


“We are all scientists, trying to make sense of the stars inside us.” ~ Christopher Poindexter

The thing is, the universe is not obligated to make sense to us. Really, it makes no “sense” that things should ever make sense. It’s more like they make sense and don’t make sense at the same time, intermittently, in the throes of each other like a wave with its trough.

Even if we could reach a point to where we believed everything made sense, there would still be some nonsense, real or imagined, that would inevitably creep in and muck up the sense of it all. Oh the futility of it all.

Perhaps things needing to making sense is a psychological hang-up. But if so, it’s an important hang-up. We need to make sense of things, at least on the surface, in order to survive. In order to avoid walking over cliffs and petting scorpions we need to make sense out of gravity and what’s potentially dangerous to us.

This requires making sense out of the seeming nonsense that surrounds us. In the sense that we can make sense out of chaos, it makes sense to do so. As Jung said, “In all chaos, there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” So it behooves us to find the secret order in chaos, but not at the expense of ignoring or being in denial of the chaos.

The problem, as it stands in the world today, is that we’ve forsaken nonsense for sense. There’s no sense of play, only work. There’s no crazy wisdom, only trite intellectualism.

Our vice, as a culture, is over-intellectualism on one side and anti-intellectualism on the other. Somehow the middle way, where sacred play is primary and imagination is robust, has been lost. We must get a grip on it.

We must find a way to wedge the Crow-bar of Synthesis between its steely jaws, so as to balance out the overly discriminate, judgmental, and rigid analytical nature with a more indiscriminate, nonjudgmental, and playfully questioning nature; so that we can get everything back into connection with everything else. As Jung also intuited, “Reason and understanding must unite with unreason and magic.”


asense3 “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” ~ Lewis Carroll

Let’s unite wisdom and acumen with foolishness and enchantment and see what happens. We can call it crazy wisdom, sacred clowning, high humor, or whatever. What matters is cultivating a good sense of humor despite being surrounded by self-serious status quo junkies with rigid agendas. As Swami Beyondananda advised, “It’s time to take humor seriously and seriousness humorously.”

Yes! Cast out the bowlines that are keeping you moored to a comfortable shoreline where everything makes “sense.” Launch yourself onto choppy and uncertain waters. Test the robustness of your vessel of certainty. Drown yourself in nonsense and then come back up for air. Then assess the extent of your ability to handle vicissitude.

It’s only by visiting that sacred space between sense and nonsense, where imagination is free to re-imagine itself, that you’ll get an authentic feel for what’s vital inside you.

As Dr. Seuss wittily surmised, “Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”

It’s time for some radical horseplay. Let’s dare ourselves to get “out of whack” so that we can learn what it really means to be “in whack.” Let’s goad our sense of things with nonsense in order to leverage a more flexible sense of things. This will require audacious imagination, and maybe a little amoral agency.

It will require not only finding the cracks between things, but expanding them, blurring them, becoming them. It will require using Attitude itself as a tool for imaginative expansion. By leveraging open-mindedness between viewpoints, we’ll be better able to intuit compassion and empathy that can expand our sense of creativity to include the world, rather than exclude it through apathy and indifference.asene4

As Lisa Alther succinctly stated, “The degree of a person’s intelligence is directly reflected by the number of conflicting attitudes she can bring to bear on the same topic.”

Through sensible boisterousness and composed nonsense, we can split Definition itself. We’re free to redefine all things through the vital power of our imaginations.

Death, Love, God, can all be redefined in more powerful ways. And should our new updated definitions become boring and uncouth, there is always the power of our imagination to fall back on in order to revise the parochial.

There’s always a Wave of Nonsense waiting to be surfed toward a greater Shore of Sensibleness. It’s a matter of “surrendering to a logic more powerful than reason,” as J.G. Ballard said. Stretch nonsense far enough and it snaps back into sense, and vice versa.

We just need enough courage to take the leap, to animate the inanimate aspects of our imagination, and then transform nonsense into a heightened sense of awareness.

What could be more exciting, more adventurous, more vital to human flourishing, than to challenge the way of things and then come out of the unknown with a more robust way of being in the world. To shatter a fragile mental paradigm and then introduce a more flexible less-shatterable mental paradigm, and then attempt to shatter that.

To stretch our comfort zone by using the birth pangs of rebirth and the death throes of ego-death and mashing it all together into a smorgasbord of individuation and self-actualization, and then having the insouciance to laugh at the pretense of it all while playfully picking off a plethora of Buddha’s along the path to enlightenment.

Talk about crazy wisdom! This is precisely why “the soul demands our folly; not our wisdom” (Jung). Because the soul knows that wisdom comes from challenging wisdom. And the only way to do that is through a vigorous imagination and a healthy sense of humor.

As Hermes Trismegistus profoundly stated, “Find your home in the haunts of every living creature. Make yourself higher than all heights and lower than all depths. Bring together in yourself all opposites of quality: heat and cold, dryness and fluidity. Think that you are everywhere at once, on land, at sea, in heaven. Think that you are not yet begotten, that you are in the womb, that you are young, that you are old, that you have died, and that you are in the world beyond the grave. Grasp in your thought all this at once, all times and places, all substances and qualities and magnitudes together. Then you can apprehend God.”

Image source:

Pendulum light bulbs
Tyson quote
Frost quote

Please share, it really helps! :) <3

Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.


Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Latest for Members


Upcoming Events

You May Like

For Members

Shadow of the Overman: The Power of the Underman Archetype

“It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares...

6 Ways to Find Your Life’s Purpose

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and...

Mythos and Ethos: A Hero’s Journey

"When you see a new trail, or a footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing." ~ Sioux Proverb Mythology has...
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x