nature, the emphasis is in what is rather than what ought to be."
talk about reality as if they know what it is. We go through our days
assuming that we are dealing with reality. The floor is solid, the food
is safe to eat, the cars we see on the street are really there, and the
drivers are real people whose intent is not to run us down. These
assumptions work pretty well for most of us. Because they work, we keep
Some people construct their universe a little differently. Assumptions
that people can be trusted have not worked out for them. They have
constructed a darker view of humanity. They don’t feel they
can trust others. They’ve noticed that the government and
corporations cannot always be trusted. They’ve noticed that
we are not treating our planet with respect, and that we have created
cruel and dangerous food production processes. They’ve
noticed that war persists and is not always noble, and that famine and
genocide continue to happen unnecessarily. They come to believe that
people are not basically good. It appears to them that nobody
cares. If they were not already depressed before they came to
these conclusions, they likely are now.
Since we estimate what reality is based upon consensus, we could be in
trouble if we got all these people together, because there are millions
of them and they describe their dim world in remarkably consistent
terms. One can make a case, backed up by the news media, that the world
is chock full of murderers, kidnappers, torturers, and other criminals
on the one hand and stupid apathetic people on the other.
Some people reading this may be thinking that this pessimistic view of
the world is making pretty good sense. Hopefully, we can take this in a
different direction. The problem with this unhappy worldview is that it
is unbalanced. It only focuses on the negative. It recognizes evil and
objects to it. It values justice and compassion, but fails to see them
where they exist. It sees the shadow, but not the light.
In order to be happy and healthy, we need to be able to see the whole
picture. We need to recognize ignorance and evil, but not just that. We
need to acknowledge wisdom and love as well. We need to know that
sometimes people behave poorly and that sometimes they are wonderfully
kind. We need to be able to see darkness and know that there is also
yin yang symbol is a tool for helping us to recognize these truths.
The yin side of the circle is dark and the yang side is light. Together
they make a whole. If we focus on one side only, we have an interesting
shape that appears incomplete. It is not a circle or a square or any
shape we see often enough that it has a common name. If we look only at
one side of the yin yang we know we have an incomplete view. At the
same time, each side may be represented as containing a spot of the
opposite color. There is a bit of dark on the white side and a bit of
white on the dark side. This suggests that we should be wary if our
take on reality contains absolutes. Good may not be entirely good and
bad may not be all bad. Good people make mistakes and the worst of us
have good moments.
Life works better when the reality we accept is not overly simplistic.
If we can see the big picture in its full color, including the black,
the white and the gray, we have more information and can make better
Consider spending some time meditating upon the yin yang. Explore its
meaning to you. Consider, as you do, that it need not be a static
symbol. That perhaps the circle does as circles tend to do; it
revolves. The black and white follow each other around and around. What
might that mean to you?
As you go through your day interacting with the universe, recall that
you are constructing your reality based upon sense impressions and
thoughts. Stop occasionally to observe how you are doing that. Notice
your body sensations and observe how your mind creates your world from
them. For instance, when you touch a tabletop, how does your mind get
the idea of hardness? When you touch a feather, how does your mind get
the idea of softness? When you interact with a person, notice when you
are judging them. Are you viewing them as all good or all bad or using
some other all or nothing filter?
Seek to become aware of the process where you interpret the world into
your preconceived reality so that ultimately, you can relate to it in
its suchness, just as it is beyond the screen of thoughts, symbols and
© 2007 Tom Barrett