.. non-being”9 is also prevalent. Within this theory is also that there is a pair of opposites that control the world. Being and non-being create a space within a space that reality can exist within. While it is the being that has existence, it is the non-being that enables us to have understanding.
It is a theory of opposites that together, combine and make reality. The second chapter in Lao Tzu says that: Being and non-being create each other. Difficult and easy support each other. Long and short define each other. High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.10 In understanding reality, it is important to realize that while existence is what is seen, there are forces that cannot be seen that are what make the harmony. This concept of moving within can be seen in many aspects of thought. Sun Tzu used Taoist rationale for his thoughts of warfare. The title of Sun Tzu’s book “The Art of War” is in itself an understanding of opposites. Rather than seeing it only as an attack and conquer theory, it becomes an art to him. When fighting, there is the need to understand what the enemy is doing, and react accordingly.
It can be argued that the Tao does not encourage fighting, and that there should be peace and harmony, however, in Lao Tzu there is a passage that says that “the Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil”11. Rather than deny the existence of war, one accepts the Tao, and understands that there can be success with its assistance, can be lead to triumph. Sun Tzu’s theory on the conduct of armed conflict states that: Military operations must entail unconventional means. Therefore, have a capability, but appear not to; make use, but appear not to; be near but appear far, or be far but appear near; show gains to lure them; show disorder to make them take a chance; where superior, set protections against them; when strong, avoid them; if of high morale, depress them; seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them.
If united, separate them12. Sun Tzu uses a theory of opposites in his methods of attack. Rather than going by standard strategies, there is something valuable to the concept of using the opposing force of what is to be expected. Having the being, but using the non-being, in a sense. He also understood the necessity of using Nature to his advantage. That there are “cyclic natural occurrences [which] include yin and yang, cold and heat, and the seasons and lunar periods”13.
In this very instance he uses the theory of yin and yang as points of relevance for success. It is important to understand the natural parts of the universe, and to use them to an advantage rather than a disadvantage. The cyclic part of nature is a primary component of the Yin Yang school, as well as the Five Agents. Both acknowledge that the universe has forces working within it that need to be used harmoniously, rather than in opposition. Whether or not man and Nature are opposing forces or are one force combined is a theme that recurs throughout the theory of yin yang. The Five Agents as well as the Ying Yang school both rely heavily on the forces of nature and the changes that occur.
The constant and fluid motion of the yin yang symbol implies this natural transformation. Wing-Tsit Chan says that “both operate in cycles of rise and fall, and in a universal pattern, thus uniting man and nature”14. The seasons change, and with every motion there is a natural response to it. In Chuang Tzu there is a story of the death of Chuang Tzu’s wife. Rather than sadness for his loss, he becomes aware of the fact that she came from nothing and returns to nothing. Being is in the middle, and to be sad for what is part of the natural cycle of life is to deny the existence of that nature.
He says only “this is like the mutual cycling of the Four Seasons”15. The changing of the seasons and the changing of the self is an important concept. Without change there is a static existence, and with that comes little room for growth or personal enlightenment. Chuang Tzu advocates change in the self in order to find personal virtue. In a tale, he is asked where he stands on being useful and useless.
Rather than be somewhere in the middle he tells the knights that question him that in the middle they can get drawn in, but: That’s not the case if you just get to the chariot of the Tao and the power of its virtue. Then you’ll drift or ramble where there is neither praise nor blame. Be a dragon. Be a worm. Change with the season. No need to specialize in anything.
You may rise or go down, making harmony your measure16. In changing the self as the seasons change, there is never fear of becoming stagnant or turning into the desires of others that surround. If there is an ability to fluidly change the self whenever change is necessary, then there can always be peace within the self. Understanding the importance of opposites combining to become one means letting go of thoughts of stopping and starting. The yin yang has no beginning, and it has no end, and that is why it has harmony. Nature does the same thing.
It is “when yin and yang go wrong [that] heaven and earth are riven, thunder rumbles, and there is fire in the water, fire to burn even the great spirit tree”17. The only thing that can stop the natural occurrences in the universe is when they are not understood for what they are. They are unchangeable, and it is when man tries to interfere with something that he has no comprehension of that the metaphorical thunder rumbles. What strikes me as I write these words is that my tree has achieved balance in its own nature. It did not attempt to overcome the obstacle that presented itself when the building was built.
Nor did the building stop the tree from growing. The two entities were able to successfully co-exist without even trying. My tree knows the value of the Tao, and the importance of balance within the yin and the yang. I also think about man and Nature in this way. There is constant concern about the environment, and whether man is attempting to overcome nature with its onslaught of buildings and roads.
There may be cause for concern, but there is a balance point at which point man can create harmony within. There is not going to be a ceasing of building, this in itself would be as unnatural as asking a bird to not build a nest. Man is going to continue to grow in numbers, and in order to survive his environment must also continue to expand. In order to achieve the necessary harmony, it is important that he not forget the theory of balance and harmony. Rather than trying to overcome it, if he takes the theory seriously, there can be a satisfactory co-existence.
Like my tree, nature will adjust itself accordingly, and like the building, man must not stand in its way. Philosophy Essays.