Chinese Taoism has a very powerful paradigm that explains the dynamics of effective living. In my opinion, this paradigm is becoming increasingly significant in order to chart an effective way forward in the 21st century.
It’s called the Yin and the Yang. Yin-Yang is used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are in fact interconnected and interdependent and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (instead of opposing) forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). That’s why you notice, in the symbol for Yin-Yang, that each part has the other (small dot) within it.
Describing Yin and Yang
“Yang is the white side with the black dot on it, and yin is the black side with the white dot on it. The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and a valley. Yin (literally the ‘shady place’ or ‘north slope’) is the dark area occluded by the mountain’s bulk, while yang (literally the ‘sunny place’ or ‘south slope’) is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed.” (Wikipedia)
Yin is characterized as slow, soft, yielding, diffuse, cool and refreshing, wet, and reflective; and is associated with water, earth, the moon, femininity and nighttime.
Yang, by contrast, is fast, hard, solid, focused, hot, dry, and aggressive; and is associated with fire, sky, the sun, masculinity and daytime.
Yin-Yang Implications for the 21st Century
So how does this fit in with my last blog post about the Athena Doctrine?
One, The authors, in their extensive global research*, have found that more and more people in our 21st century are being drawn to a different-than-usual way of living and working and being in the world. They’re realizing for our world to achieve its potential for wholeness and transformation, both Yin and Yang need to be expressed, validated, and incorporated.
Two, for much of history, there has been a Yang path forward–predominantly masculine, where aggression, power, win-lose, dominance have ruled the day. The Yin, more feminine part of life, has been devalued and considered “too soft” to be effective at the forefront of and in the halls of influence in a world filled with conflict, enemies, survival and growth.
Three, and yet, as the authors of The Athena Doctrine are pointing out from their extensive research, the majority of people (66%) representing countries around the world are saying that for the world to achieve its full potential, the Yin side–more feminine qualities–needs to be brought to the forefront.
Four, the powerful piece to this is that people aren’t saying it’s an “either/or” proposition–throw out all the men and bring in all the women. Rather, it’s a “both/and” necessity.
A World of Complementarity Instead of Opposition
Here’s the way the authors describe it:
“People seek a more expressive style of leader who shares feelings more openly and honestly as well as patience and reason to break gridlock. We also want long term thinkers who can dig in and plan for the future. The more masculine qualities like decisiveness and resilience are important, but so is being flexible in order to build consensus and get things done. Also, in the new economy winning is becoming a group construct: masculine traits like aggression and independent trail the feminine values of collaboration and sharing credit. And being loyal (which is feminine) is more valued than being proud (which is masculine), which point to being devoted to the cause rather than one’s self. And that we want our leaders to be more intuitive–(also feminine)–speaks to the lack of many leaders to have the capacity to relate to ordinary people and their points of view.”
The central facet of Yin-Yang is the emphasis on the interconnectedness of life, one cannot exist without the other, both are complementary to each other rather than opposing forces, interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts. For this to occur, both sides have to be equally valued in the shifting seasons and shadows of life.
The Necessity of Addressing a Historical Imbalance
There has been a sad imbalance of this equation for much of history. And the tragic results of this are evident everywhere: violence, gridlock, greed for power-status-wealth, economic injustice, aggression, win-lose, lack of compassion, us again them mentality, being right is more important than being in relationship.
This has to change if we are going to experience a world where everyone has an equal place at the table with equal opportunities, and where we steward our natural resources in sustainable ways, all built upon a foundation of mutual honor, respect, worth, and empathy.
It’s time to place inordinate value upon the feminine characteristics and ways of thinking and being as central to our path forward. It’s time to place more women and men who think like them at positions of influence in charting our path forward. It’s time to shape a global rather than tribal world based upon the value of interconnectedness and dynamic complementarity in navigating our path forward. It’s time to honor both Yin and Yang together and empower both to work interdependently in building an effective path forward.
The future and quality of our world depend upon it.
*The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the World, John Gerzema & MichaeL D’Antonio