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Soulful Sundays: Ambiguity

"Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity." -Sigmund Freud



One of the first principles of Taoism (and therefore Chinese medicine) is the balance of yin and yang. These represent the polar forces that exist in all systems. Consider the positive and negative action potentials that control cellular membranes (and all atoms for that matter), the male and female gametes that combine to make life, the left and right hemispheres that coordinate our brain, and the ones and zeros that carry this message. The interplay of opposites is essential to existence as we understand it. Yet this polarity can be both assuredly definitive and oddly ambiguous at the same time.


We most commonly picture yin and yang as the famous black and white Taiji symbol--a fluid circle containing the two forces. They are constantly shifting, creating and destroying one another. The seed of one is always present in the body of the other. In this way there is both a clear border between the two and no border at all. In essence, the Taiji is the answer to how life can seem simultaneously absolute AND uncertain. All opposites are paradoxical! The members of each opposite pair both define and contradict each other. If this sounds confusing then you are beginning to understand.


Ambiguity is only threatening if we allow it to overwhelm us. It is during times of high uncertainty that we are most drawn to easy (and usually irreversible) solutions. We want a way out of the dark, which is understandable, but we forget that we have more than just our sense of sight to rely on. The next time we find ourselves in doubt, perhaps we can respectfully refuse to see it as something negative and look at it instead as an invitation to ask more questions. And, most importantly, listen for answers.


We don't need, nor would it be desirable, to have all of life's mysteries explained. Awe is the necessary opposite of understanding. The greatest gift of all is the ability to know awe when we see it while remaining humble through its transmission. Those who know the truth and choose to live by it, unconcerned by the opinions of others, are at one with the eternal power contained within the Taiji. They are moving with certainty within ambiguity, all the while knowing that their certainty is at times ambiguous. That is pretty much the definition of faith.


We carry on as if each action has meaning, yet don't get overly attached to the outcomes, because they are assuredly not in our complete control.



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