The Better We Understand the Black and White of Things, the More Effectively We Can Live and Operate Within the Gray

“There are no boundaries in the real planet earth.  No United States, no Russia, no China, no Taiwan.  Rivers flow unimpeded across the swaths of continents.  The persistent tides, the pulse of the sea do not discriminate; they push against all the varied shores on Earth.” – Jacques Cousteau

Humans create lines, boundaries, milestones, thresholds, and so on.  In a good way, it’s to measure and segment so that we can compartmentalize, understand, be safer, and navigate.  There are negative effects as well, which can prevent us from growing as a species.

There are no boundaries in the real planet earth.  No lines.  I often see people driving at the local mall area and stopping for stop signs that don’t exist.  We put lines where there are no lines.  Where the ocean meets the sand, we call it the shore line. But there is no line, only a transition.  We say, “There’s a fine line between love and hate.”  No there isn’t.  It’s just a different way of emoting from the same space.  The part of the brain that processes pleasure is the same that processes pain.  No line. 

Look at the Yinyang symbol; black on one side, white on the other (or vice versa), with a small amount of each within the other, represented by a small dot.  We see a distinct line between yin and yang, but it only exists in our perception.  Yinyang is a constantly flowing transition where one can become the other, depending on the situation. 

And by the way, it’s Yinyang when referring to the concept, as a whole.  It’s only yin & yang when referring to the two the individual principles.

In universal terms, the cosmos is always in motion, but it is never in chaos.  Only humans create chaos.  Chaos and lines … hmm.  We seem to be wired to believe that yin and yang are opposing forces, but instead, they harmoniously coexist.  A rise in one element may mean a reduction of the other, but they are not at war. 

Yin and Yang are very much like the ones and zeros in binary code.  It consists of two components that can be combined in endless permutations.  And while yin and yang have properties that are inherent to themselves, most times they are in relation to something else.  Something yang can have a yin relationship.    

For example: While a tree is yang, the shadow it casts is yin.  The parts above the ground are yang and the roots are yin. Above the ground, the trunk is yang, while the branches are yin.  But, in relation to the leaves that are yin, now the branches are yang.  See how it works?

Like binary code, Yinyang is the very fabric of reality, responsible for all things in creation.  It’s neither for us, nor against us.  It just is and we just happen to live here in this realm.

There will be times when our situation is extremely yang (Up, Left, Light, Fire, Positive, Dynamic, Male, Sky, and so on).  Other times, our situation can be extremely Yin (Down, Negative, Static, Dark, Female, and so on). 

So what?

I wrote a series of articles about ten years ago and titled the work, “The Gray Reality” and the tagline goes, “The better we understand the black and white of things, the more effectively we can live and operate within the gray.”  The black and white are the absolutes, but the harmonious relationship of yin and yang, considering the dynamics of reality in real time, circumstances, and context, multiplied by how many humans are involved in the particular situation, each with our different backgrounds, philosophies, education, beliefs, personalities, levels of hierarchy, influence, intelligence, intuition, values, and even our mood, which can change in a flash and without warning, well then … the amount of permutations relative to this and that, who, what, where, when, how, and so on get very complicated. 

That’s the grayscale. 

Yeah okay, I know, so what?  Well, knowing is only knowing.  Big deal.  In martial arts, we used to say, “The knowing of Zen is not Zen.  We must do to be.”  Knowing is simply academic.  Doing is the application of that knowledge in real-world practice.  Good.  But, being?  Now that is mastery.  That is “Zen”. 

Zen is letting go of illusions (lines) and seeing reality as it is without distortion.  It’s not being tense, but wholly and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready and capable for whatever may come.  It’s not being set, but flexible, liberated from an uneasy sense of confinement (lines), and total awareness in the here and now.  The better we understand the black and white of things (yin and yang), the more effectively we can live and operate within the gray.

Anyways …

We can start by evaluating our own personal lines and boundaries that we artificially place in our own way and live happier, more content, harmonious, and yin lives in relation to the outside yang.


Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

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