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The YIN-YANG CONUNDRUM  

In Chinese philosophy, there exists a duality in everything, represented by the [yin-yang] concept. The [yin-yang]  represents a balance between “Female” [yin] and “Male” [yang]. This balance is applicable to a whole spectrum of situations ranging from astronomy to Chinese medicine, from digital technology to events in nature.

(Note that other than the common radical, the word [yin] has the moon as its component while the word [yang] has the sun. The sun and the moon represent two forms of light, one dazzling bright, the other comfortable, warm glow)

This duality of [yin] and [yang] is better understood if we look at the simplicity of extremely complex scenarios, be it man-made or created by God.

 

[Yin-yang] and its endless creativity

Take the Information Technology, perhaps the most important development in the 20th Century and beyond. A whole range of our present day activities would not be possible without it. Home and office computers analyse complex data, trends, projections, reports, complete with texts, graphics, sounds, videos, animations, as well as interaction at extremely fast speeds. With appropriate software, we could also simulate scenarios, carry out product development, market research, and more importantly make decisions!

Through the Internet we connect with millions of individuals or enterprises anywhere in the World. Communication through websites, email, and videoconference dramatically changes personal lives and business practices.

Few people realise that at the fundamental “machine language” level texts, pictures, sounds, videos and animation are known to the computer as a series of ons and offs, plus or minus, represented as [0] or [1]. A digitised picture, for example, is represented by a matrix of dots across the screen; each dot assigned a code representing the colour and tone. It is obvious that in the final analysis, a fascinating picture is no more than a matrix of dots, represented by [0] or [1] in an organised and sequential manner.

Once this is appreciated, it is easy to understand how image processing software uses the speed and power of the computer to edit pictures, whereby images could be merged, superimposed, or modified to obtain the effects of colour, stroke, light, shade, contrasts, smudging, and so on.

Similarly digitised voice or sounds can also be represented by a series of [0] and [1]. Modern mobile phones are digitised, so that they can link with computers and other digital equipment. Digital Television provides interaction with the viewer. Indeed a whole range of hitherto unrelated activities such as computerised graphics design, animation, simulation, picture and sound production, MP3, printing, artificial intelligence, on-line trading and education, is evolving at an incredibly fast rate—based on simple [0] and [1].

Indeed anything digital, from television to palm-top, from photography to animation, arises from the simple binary, [yin-yang]  system.

 

[Yin-yang] Concepts

Having looked at a an interesting contemporary application of the centuries old concept of duality, let us see if we could find words that adequately contain the following notions inherent in [yin-yang] concepts.

The argument might seem to be paradoxical or contradictory at first glance.

 

[Yin] and [yang] are equal and opposite

Recognition of the equality and opposing nature of the two entities is crucial to the appreciation of balance of power, as well as interdependence of things in nature. This applies across the whole spectrum of parameters. For example when [yīn] is associated with females and [yáng] associated with males the two are equal and opposite.

 

[Yin] and [yang] are well defined

Every entity, parts of human body, food material, physical concepts such as heat and cold, high and low, directions, taste, etc., is either [yin] or [yang].  The [yin] or [yang] aspect in nature is distinct, definite and consistent. For example outer surface is always designated as [yang] and inner surface designated [yin].

 

[Yin] and [yang] are rooted to each other  

Without [yin] there is no [yang] and without [yang] there is no [yin]. Once again this is obvious in partnership, be it marital or business. It follows that for it to work [yin-yang] controls each other, restrains each other and work together as a coherent entity. Within [yang] there is a touch of [yin] and within [yin] there is always a tinge of [yang]. If we take [yang] as male, the outer part, for example the skin is [yang] while the inner part [yin] within the same entity.

 

[Yin] and [yang] are in dynamic equilibrium

Mutual dependence and restraint requires compromises, give and take. This dynamic equilibrium is only attained when the energies are balanced, just as the force of electrons and protons must be balanced for matter to be stable. This unity, mutual restraint and interdependence cannot be over-emphasised.

 

[Yin] and [yang] evolve

Take the example of human moods or economic cycle; there are periods of ups and downs. Periods of growth would inevitably give rise to recession. Recession cannot last and is always followed by growth.

Consider the following:

Success only exists where there is failure to be compared with. Brightness is only meaningful if one has experienced darkness. If one surface of the earth were to face the sun all the time there would be brightness always, but probably no one would think that it is bright, since there is no darkness to contrast with.

Rather than dealing with familiar but simplistic, absolute values such as good and evil, right and wrong, the real world requires interpretation of relative values of [yin] and [yang].

This is why we only appreciate happiness when we can compare it to sadness. If there were only good people in this world, how would one know what is it to be good?

In practice [yin] or [yang] would be relative values. In other words there is simply no absolute truth or value. Duality or polarity refers to different facets of the same feature. They refer to both sides of the same coins, not different coins.

 

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

This view of life permeates all aspects of Chinese thinking. In practical terms

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It implies that whatever happens, there is always the opposite side of the coin.

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It highlights the importance of harmony and balance. This is translated into compromise and negotiation.

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It emphasises on relative rather than absolute values. This propensity to think in relative, rather than absolute terms results in a more contextual, cyclical, rather than linear thought process.

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It highlights combination of possibilities, rather than simple, straight forward yes/no answer.

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It infers that nothing is permanent, everything being subject to continuous change. Someone who is relatively weak today could well be your competitor one day. Someone powerful today could loose all his influence and authority one day. Long term stability, rather than short term advantage, should be the ultimate objective.

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It favours moderation in preference to extremes. This is one of the central themes of Confucius thoughts.

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It demonstrates the equality and counter-dependence of factors. 

More information could be found in chapter eight of this book

For more information please contact the author