Duality of Life

Duality of Life

Pentecost 63

Mankind has been arguing about the differences between mythology and philosophy for almost as long as it has about the differences between religion and spirituality. There are several examples of cross-over beliefs but perhaps the easiest to see is the visible portrayal; of the Chinese concept of yin and yang.

We will delve into this in a month or so but for now, let’s remember that yin and yang, usually illustrated by a circle with a curvy line dividing in half and mirror image or negative reflections of a smaller circle on each side; the entire illustration being white and black or black and white.

Yin and yang are said to represent the opposites that exist in life, the duality of life, if you will. Chinese figures that represent these two sides are the dragon and the phoenix. Male and female, night and day, light and dark, joy and sorrow, cold and hot…. For almost every aspect of life there is an existing opposite and throughout the mythologies and philosophies of the world, there is an underlying truth that states these opposite forces need to be in harmony for one to live successfully.

The Greek and Roman mythologies we have discussed thus far also illustrate this duality of life, although in a different way. They also illustrate how difficult it is to obtain and maintain a harmonic balance in life. The conflict of many of these myths arises when that balance is disturbed.

The stories of Romulus and Remus, Numitor and Amulius, and the twin Penates all represent the duality of life. Living and dead, heavens and earth, heaven and the underworld are the basic tenets of every story and every belief system.

What is important is not the division these things or even their meaning or purpose. What gives each value is the movement between the two. Both sets of twins, Numitor and Amulius, Romulus and Remus had behaviors that greatly impacted their world and culture. Take, for example, night and day. Each has a purpose but it is the flowing from one to the other that gives each its meaning. The brightness of the day would not be as important without the darkness of the night.

Joy and sorrow are two other examples. If we lived each day in a humdrum existence, life would be monotonous. The joys and yes, even the sorrows we experience, give our lives meaning and also serve great purpose.

The fact is that we would not appreciate warmth without having experienced cold. We would not value life is we did not know of death. “Duality is at the heart of mythology and the basic structure of myth,” wrote Claude Levi-Strauss in 1968. The duality of the world is a basic theme in most mythologies of the world but also in our daily living.

In “Leviathan”, Robert Anton Wilson wrote: “In order to eat, you have to be hungry. In order to learn, you have to be ignorant. Ignorance is a condition of learning. Pain is a condition of health. Passion is a condition of thought. Death is a condition of life.”

The butterfly is often used to illuminate the dualities that life offers. It is also used to exemplify hope. Hope is not the dream of the unintelligent, the impossible quest we can never achieve. Hope is the byproduct of having lived, the end knowledge that life is a continuous cycle of both living and dying to be reborn. The butterfly is birthed in a tightly enclosed world in which we assume he/she becomes comfortable, much like the growing baby in its mother’s womb. Impressions are received but hazy, sounds muted but present. Suddenly that world breaks apart and is destroyed and yet, it is at that moment, that the butterfly and the baby begin to really live their purpose. What seemed like death was simply another birth.

Anthony St. Maarten in writing “divine Living: The Essential Guide to Your Destiny” explains: “If we never experience the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing stimulates our appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness or desperation. In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse.”


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