Updated: Nov 30, 2019
Life is full of contrasting states or conditions, which by their opposing nature are often classified as positive or negative. Right v. wrong, dark v. light, good v. bad, fear v. love. In essence, most of us are trying to be the perfect version of ourselves, and thus reside permanently in the positive pole. Since we are all human, at times we falter and fall into the negative side, and the challenge is recognizing it, pulling ourselves out and crossing back over to the other. A practical example is maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime. I consider myself to be a healthy person, but at times I just feel like binging on popcorn and ice cream.
If you believe in the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang, these dueling forces are actually complementary and interconnected. One would not be what it is without the existence of the other. We could not recognize “good” behavior if there was never any “bad” behavior. Perceived success would not be nearly as rewarding without having faced perceived failures.
But some experiences lately have me questioning if we are ever fully capable of residing on one side or the other – or if that is even something to strive for (unless perhaps you are a nun, monk, or a person who actively dedicates your life to maintain a highly enlightened state). It seems to me that we are all usually walking the line, in a constant tug-of-war with one foot in each territory. In particular, I have been focused on understanding the opposing forces of fear v. love. Fear-based decisions are not always bad, especially if they support a particular value. For example, I might stay in job I detest because I am afraid of change or financial instability. But ultimately, if my financial stability is so important because I am supporting a family which represents a higher value in my life, then although my decision might be founded in fear, it is really driven by love. A fine line.
Another situation I came across recently is related to blame and responsibility. In its purest sense, blaming someone else is a denial of our own responsibility for our actions and emotions. It is wasted energy and moves us away from love. It creates a condition in which one person is “right” and the other is “wrong.” But what do we do when we really feel hurt by another person’s actions? Of course we call it to their attention – otherwise it festers, causing us to suffer and begin to resent the other person. Categorically, there is no right or wrong, just differing perspectives. The challenge lies in how to communicate those feelings without handing over your power to the other person and negating your own responsibility. Another fine line.
I believe that inherent in our humanness is the constant walk on a balance beam between dueling states and forces. Our egos (our defense mechanisms buoyed by fear) are constantly battling our vulnerabilities (which are engendered by love). Ironically, ego v. vulnerability is not a good v. bad concept. In fact, I think both are necessary to grow and evolve as individuals who are intricately connected to every other individual on this planet. If that hypothesis is true, then maybe we are all always walking the line, stepping into one side or the other, and the balance of the world depends on that universal opposing power. If I am stepping into the dark today, someone else is simultaneously stepping into the light and all is harmonious. It helps us understand things like violence, hate and war.
Perfection is a desired state (at least for many), but it’s not a human one. If I can appreciate the interdependence of the contrasting forces in all situations and take responsibility for the part I am playing, then I believe I am a representation of a perfect, imperfect being. My soul may be perfect, but my actions are not. And just as I appreciate the summer heat so much more because I know the winter cold, I embrace my dark side as a contrast to my light, and I love more deeply for fear of a lack of love in my life. So walk the line, fall off into the dark side, and blame someone else on occasion, but allow the magnetic energy of the opposite pole to pull you back up and continue on your journey.