I read that couplet some years ago in a novel by Ursula LeGuin which took its name from the first line. The novel was interesting enough, but it was the name ~ the image ~ that captured my attention and imagination, and this couplet that has stayed with me all these years ~ because, like the yinyan symbol, it is a very evocative way to think of the interconnected duality of life, and how darkness is as necessary to life as light.
I’ve been trying very hard for the last few years to see the “silver linings,” among the dark clouds of life, to internalize and live what I’ve always known intellectually ~ that every “mistake” teaches you something valuable, every “wrong” choice brings with it the knowledge you need to help make the “right” choice the next time, and with every crisis outside your control comes at least one component that you can control, even if it’s only the way you choose to react.
Sounds so simple and straightforward, doesn’t it. Most truths do ~ it’s the unwavering belief and the day to day, moment to moment exercise of that belief that gives you trouble.
When something “bad” happens, our first reaction (or mine, anyway) is almost always negative ~ hurt, anger, sorrow, fear. That’s a reflex, I think, and a normal one ~ negativity begets negativity, like calls to like. Fortunately, as thinking human beings, we are not at the mercy of our “natural” reactions ~ we have the capacity, after that initial response, to choose to perpetuate the negative energy or we can choose to look for and focus on the positives of the situation ~ and there are always some, even if they sometimes seem insufficient, at that moment, to balance out the others. We have the ability to change our reality simply by realizing that what we send out into the universe comes back to us, multiplied, and make our choices accordingly.
The biggest mistake I think people make is to go through life trying not to make any mistakes ~ and then beating themselves up for it and/or giving up when they do. We have too well internalized what is really a fallacy: that mistakes and bad choices lead to failure. Often, they do ~ The fallacy lies in ending the statement ~ and the endeavor ~ with “failure,” as if that condition, once achieved, were permanent.
It is not. No situation or condition is permanent or immutable unless you choose to believe it so. In reality, no success has ever been achieved without failures preceding it, each marking a spot on the map that ultimately leads to success. The “mistake” is in looking at mistakes and “bad” choices as if they where wholly negative ~ they are not; they are simply one side of the yinyan ~ one side of the duality, the near dichotomy of life ~ and the foil against which the other stands out so clearly.
Or as the Chinese philosophy from which the symbol is taken holds, the image symbolizes the reality of “how polar or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other.”
Hurt, anger, sorrow, fear ~ we welcome none of these, especially when they grow out of our own “mistakes” ~ yet, without hurt how could one experience healing? without anger, how would one know serenity? without sorrow to measure it against, how would one recognize true joy? and without fear how well would one appreciate freedom from it?
Don’t let yourself be immobilized by the fear that you will make a mistake or “do it wrong” ~ you will do both, multiple times. I guarantee it. As long as you’re breathing and actually living your life, you will make mistakes and do things “wrong.”
Remember, just as light cannot be without darkness, so too, in every endeavor, there must be mistakes and failures if you are ever to achieve success.
(hmmmm . . . it occurs to me that I didn’t start this blog out with the intent of turning it into a pep rally ~ but then maybe that’s what it needed to be, and who am I to argue with the left hand of darkness?)
My best advice to you always (whether you want it or not):
Seize the day ~