My icon around here is a yin/yang symbol with a black leopard. (I’ve put a larger version of it in this post, as it’s just too small to see next to my comments.)
There are a number of reasons for my choosing this as my icon. In part, I chose it because black cats are so darn cool. In part, I chose it because it associates well with my long involvement in martial arts. Finally, I chose it because it’s such a great visual summary of balance. Of course balance is what the yin/yang symbol was created to represent.
For any who may not know the yin/yang symbol well, here’s a brief primer on it, along with a simpler symbol.
It is circular to represent the world/globe. It is half black and half white to represent the opposing or complementary categories into which much of the world can be divided. [For instance black and white (opposites) or male and female (complements).] To show that these categories are not always neat or absolute, the black portion bulges over to the white side and likewise the white bulges over to the black side. Lastly, there is a spot of black in the midst of the white field and a spot of white in the midst of the black field to indicate that even in the midst of any division, there may be elements of its opposite or complement.
For years the concept of such balance and intermixing of opposites and complements has occupied my mind. As I tried to set aside preconceived notions about a lot of things, I’ve found that this yin/yang view makes a lot of sense.
Science, where I make my living, may often be presented with absolutes. Yet, when you delve deeply, you may learn that there are exceptions and nuances to hard-held theories.
Religion likewise is often presented in absolute terms. Yet again, upon rigorous examination, hard-held doctrines may be nuanced, and not so all encompassing.
Much the same can be said of politics, learning theory, child rearing, or any other area of human experience and action. Beliefs, habits, opinions, policies, and all the other things that we may take as givens, even good/bad, right/wrong, true/false, and the other dichotomies that we divide our world into, may not really constitute the nice, sharp-edged boxes that we hoped would keep our thoughts, and our world, so neatly categorized.
It appears to me that a lot of the strife in our world comes from the efforts to create and maintain these inflexible dichotomies.
- By insisting they are “right” liberal and conservatives generate endless political infighting.
- By insisting that they “have it all figured out” many religious folks alienate those who don’t share “the faith”, sometimes they even manage to turn their fellow man into implacable enemies. And lest any of us pat ourselves on the back for “escaping religion”, this condemnation holds much the same for many de-converts who make their former confession out to be “the root of all evil”.
- By insisting “my team”, “my country”, “my music”, “my opinions”, etc are the best, we humans bring fistfights, feuds, vandalism, and all manner of bad blood.
I’m beginning to think that real root of all evil isn’t money, or power, or ignorance. I think it’s the arrogance that says, “I have arrived, I have it all figured out, I have the answers. The rest of you can just learn from my magnificence.”
My wife used to try to tell me, “Hon. The world just may exist in more shades of gray than your black and white vision can see.” It took a long time, but I finally started believing that. And I finally started to think that neatly sorting my world into dichotomous “files” wasn’t actually representing truth or reality. Nowadays I’m sorting the world into messier categories. Neatly separated piles are spilling onto one another. Concepts that “ought to stay” in category 1, wind up leak into categories 2 and 3.
So I’m putting less effort into sorting things neatly. They just get into messy jumbles anyway. It seems a messy, jumbled worldview correlates better with reality. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I am trying to adapt to a messy, mixed up, jumbled, diverse, confusing, chaotic reality.
And I’m finding it’s easier to remain balanced on a broadly spread conceptual pile than on an ideological razor’s edge.