Celebrating Duality This Holiday Season
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
One of the things I’ve been reflecting on recently is how ubiquitous the story of a good guy or hero pitted against the bad guy or villain is. It always looks bleak for a while and then through perseverance and determination the good guy always wins, because good triumphs evil - every time. There is something I have always found comforting in these stories, but I am beginning to recognize that there is something harmful, or at least incomplete, in them too.
Let me explain. None of us is entirely good or bad. When we think in these reductionist terms two things start to happen. The first is that we will, of course, all understand ourselves as the hero of our own story. This allows us to minimize the areas that we have to work on and overlook where we may have caused harm. Secondly, it gives us permission to see others in similarly one-dimensional ways. When we understand certain people or groups as good and right and others as bad and wrong then we have already made up our minds about what they have to say, and we lose the ability to communicate and connect with them. When we refuse to acknowledge this duality in ourselves it becomes easier to paint other people with a similar either/or brush. This is increasing the polarization of people at the very time when we need to be coming together and recognizing our interconnection and sameness with one another and the planet.
This duality made me immediately think of the Yin and Yang symbol. The yin-yang symbol consists of a circle divided into two halves by a curved line. One half of the circle is black, typically representing the yin side; the other is white, for the yang side. A dot of each color is situated near the center of the other's half. The two halves are thus intertwining across a spiral-like curve that splits the whole into semicircles, and the small dots represent the idea that both sides carry the seed of the other.
The white dot in the black area and the black dot in the white area represent coexistence and unity of opposites to form a whole. The curvy line signifies that there are no absolute separations between the two opposites. The yin-yang symbol, then, embodies both sides: duality, paradox, unity in diversity, change, and harmony.
The yin yang, an ancient symbol of harmony and balance, challenges the conventional association of light with good and darkness with evil. Yin and yang is a complex relational concept in Chinese culture that has developed over thousands of years. Briefly put, the meaning of yin and yang is that the universe is governed by a cosmic duality, sets of two opposing and complementing principles or cosmic energies that can be observed in nature.
The balance of yin and yang is important. If yin is stronger, yang will be weaker, and vice versa. Yin and yang can interchange under certain conditions so that they are usually not yin and yang alone. In other words, yin elements can contain certain parts of yang, and yang can have some components of yin. This balance of yin and yang is perceived to exist in everything.
I was trying to think of stories that represent this duality and idea of balance. Because I grew up in a Chirstian tradition and, perhaps because it is the holiday season, the first two stories that came to mind were A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Both these stories feature protagonists who start out on their respective journeys by having an imbalance of dark energy and who, with help, are able to bring more light energy into their way of being in and perceiving the world. They both recognize that the single most important dragons to be slaying are the ones that lie within themselves. If these stories aren’t familiar to you, they are lovely classics that you may enjoy. If you already know them, they are worth a revisit. For those of you unfamiliar with them, you undoubtedly have similar stories that fit this archetype from your culture. I would love to hear about them.
Regardless, I wish you all a happy holiday season and hope that you can find ways to balance the light (Yang) energy around you during this special season of light and love.