A Symbol of Whole and Interdependent Systems

The Chinese Tai Ji symbol of yin and yang represents the ever-changing balance between complementarity and polarity.  Each half of the symbol grows from the sliver to a bulb in relationship to the other half.  Only together do they create a coherent whole.  Each half helps the other maintain its shape and its integrity.  Within each half there lives a small dot of the opposite’s primary nature.  These dots not only represent the idea that each half contains some of its opposite;  perhaps more significant, they represent the dynamic nature of the relationship between the two elements in that each half has the potential for becoming its opposite.

This simple and elegant symbol portrays much about life.  It shows both unity and polarity, static form and the inevitability of change, separate identity and interconnectedness, and the presence within everything of opposite.  It is a symbol that transcends the dichotomy between “both/and” and “either/or.”  Each half lives as itself, yet neither can live without the other.  Each half grows and changes in its own right, yet neither evolves without the other. 


from Prelude to Part 1: Directions in the ForestLeadership in a Challenging World: A Sacred Journey, pp. 5-6, by Barbara Shipka, 1997.

Drawing © Barbara Shipka 2010

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