To be fully aware of the present is an extraordinarily difficult task because the mind is incapable of facing a fact directly without deception. Thought is the product of the past and therefore it can only think in terms of the past or the future; it cannot be completely aware of a fact in the present. So long as thought, which is the product of the past, tries to eliminate contradiction and all the problems that it creates, it is merely pursuing a result, trying to achieve an end, and such thinking only creates more contradiction and hence conflict, misery and confusion in us and, therefore, about us.
To be free of contradiction, one must be aware of the present without choice. How can there be choice when you are confronted with a fact? Surely the understanding of the fact is made impossible so long as thought is trying to operate upon the fact in terms of becoming, changing, altering. Therefore self-knowledge is the beginning of understanding; without self-knowledge, contradiction and conflict will continue. To know the whole process, the totality of oneself, does not require any expert, any authority. The pursuit of authority only breeds fear. No expert, no specialist, can show us how to understand the process of the self. One has to study it for oneself. You and I can help each other by talking about it, but none can unfold it for us, no specialist, no teacher, can explore it for us. We can be aware of it only in our relationship - in our relationship to things, to property, to people and to ideas. In relationship we shall discover that contradiction arises when action is approximating itself to an idea. The idea is merely the crystallization of thought as a symbol, and the effort to live up to the symbol brings about a contradiction.
The First and Last Freedom
Chapter 8, 'Contrdiction'