Yesterday in Tai Chi there was a short discussion about yin and yang. In short, it is the concept of opposite or contrary forces may be complimentary, interconnected, or interdependent force in nature. For example: light and dark. Without one the other wouldn’t exist. Yet, they flow into each other.
The discussion focused more on emotions and identity. There are no fully good or bad prople. Our actions can be good or bad. Good acts don’t make us “good.” Bad acts don’t make us “bad.” They’re acts, not identity. With anger, are we truly angry at another person or something within ourselves? I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the concept. Regarding emotions, we can’t know love without hate, happiness without sadness. They are interconnected.
I understand the emotions. It’s a frame of reference. Emotions are not permanent; they ebb and flow. Notice them and let them go. It’s identity that bothers me. There are people who lack conscience. They are purely evil. They’re called sociopaths.
How do sociopaths fit in with balance? They are out of balance with themselves. They also pull other people into the cesspool with them. Many of those people are innocent bystanders: family, coworkers, voters, strangers. They betray trust. They hurt people and don’t give a shit. Anything they do that is “good” is done with an agenda. Or a sense of ownership: “my” family; “my” employees. I suppose their evil is counterbalanced by people who, while not perfect, bring peace, healing, balance, love.
The philosophy of t’ai chi ch’uan is that, if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certainly to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to t’ai chi ch’uan, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin. When done correctly, this yin/yang or yang/yin balance in combat, or in a broader philosophical sense, is a primary goal of t’ai chi ch’uan training. Lao Tzu provided the archetype for this in the Tao Te Ching when he wrote, “The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong.”
Traditional schools also emphasize that one is expected to show wude (“martial virtue/heroism”), to protect the defenseless, and show mercy to one’s opponents.
The first sentence nails it, “…if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certainly to be injured at least to some degree.” In either physical confrontation, relationships, or emotions, the more “violent” the resistance the more one, or everyone involved, get hurt.
Is the answer gentleness no matter what the “force?” Moving with the dance instead of away when dealing with people who will hurt you? What would that look like?
“Soft, gentle, and pliable.” Being pliable is adaptation; flexibility in vision and response. Gentleness is compassion, respect, empathy in action. What is “soft?” It’s a concept with negative connotations: soft is “weak.” Yet if I fall on a stack of soft pillows I won’t get hurt. If I fall on a hard sidewalk, I’ll most likely walk away with some injury.
I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to Tai Chi and yin and yang. I’m at the start of learning. Yet, in the mind of the beginner can sometimes be found wisdom. Even if it’s just more questions to ponder. Or a start of a dialogue of ideas. We all learn from each other.
What are your thoughts?