Tag Archives: opposites

valentine’s day, yes and no

man and woman embracingcontrary to some ideas that have been floating around that valentine’s day is an invention of hallmark’s, valentine’s day has been around for a long time.  valentine’s day is a day of fertility, of the first stirrings of spring rising up, the seeds waking up, ready to sprout with the first warmth of the sun. it’s fertility for humans, too – and what is that all about? this fertility and love get lumped together – and why? is that what love is all about? in my (sometimes) wise old age i can’t say anymore that love is about romantic love, or at least the official version of romantic love: alex meets chris, they spark, their bodies and hearts yearn for each other, and the cumulation of it is a french kiss under the moonlight.

(sidebar: there is a theory that romantic love is an invention of the western medieval world. i am not a social historian but i find that difficult to believe. perhaps the way the stories of romantic love are told is a relatively new invention but it seems ludicrous to me to assert that the stirring of hormones did not produce romance, or something like it, among couples the world over since time immemorial. just look at the bible, the gilgamesh epic or the bhagavad gita.)

so if we look beyond that, what do we find? one thing that valentine’s day as a fertility rite makes me think of is the attraction of opposites that brings forth new life.

there is the obvious of man and woman coming together to create a child.

what else is there?

a pair of opposites i’ve been musing about lately is “yes” and “no”. if we use traditional symbology, we could see “yes” as the female principle and “no” as the male.

what happens when yes and no come together?

for one thing, they balance each other out. “yes” only is without boundaries: the mother – all-loving but also devouring; all-allowing but also surrendering to the point of obliteration.

“no” only is hard, small and single-minded: the father – guiding but also all-demanding; all-protecting but also exclusively jealous. (and yes, i am aware how limited these descriptions are; there are many more layers.)

what else happens when “yes” and “no” come together? what child might they bring forth? the nodding, embracing, resplendently smiling “yes” coupling with the boundary setting, individuating, protecting “no”, embracing, entwining …

contemplating this, i see movement, the movement of the “yes”, bounded by the “no”. “yes” wants to expand forever, “no” says, wait a sec, let’s not go into the dangerous jungle, let’s stay on the road.

and then these ideas arise: indecision, doubt, uncertainty; the words “maybe” (which garfield suggested) and “perhaps”. are they the children of the union of “yes” and “no”?

if so, this young child has so many possibilities, as every child does. indecision could mean wishy-washiness, or it could mean the wisdom of not rushing into rash decisions. doubt could mean mistrust but it could also mean healthy, awake scepticism. uncertainty could mean unsteadiness and it could also mean a comfortable awareness of the fact that nothing in life is ever certain, that life is in, and is a constant flux.

my personal hope is that this is a child of love, that “yes” and “no” find each other with their eyes open and embrace each other not only in the heat of spring passion, but also by – saying “yes” to each other, by seeing, calling forth and enhancing the goodness that each offers.

what would you wish for this child?

what polar opposites would you like to come together?

image by nick thompson

opposites, delight and gratification

lately, i’ve been mulling around in my head the concept of delight. i am part of a small support group, and one thing my support people do is to phone me up on a regular basis and ask me, “what was delightful in the last 24 hours? what will be delightful in the next 12 hours?” this helps me focus on delight, something that i’d like to have more of in my life.

when i’m trying to understand something, i find it helpful to see what its opposite might be, and then to get a sense of what might be on the continuum between these two opposites.

for a while, one opposite of delight was worry; an opposite maybe not so much in terms of black being the opposite of white but in the sense that delight lives in a totally different realm than worry.

if we draw a line between delight and worry, what’s in the space between, then?

pleased, slightly anxious, or neutral might be on that continuum.

like any concept, delight has more than one opposite (a fascinating topic to begin with; had i used some of the material in the linguistics book i mentioned during the blogathon, i’d definitely have talked about the notion of opposites). one of them is, i believe, gratification.

gratification is self-centred, small, short-lived and junky (it’s easy to achieve quick gratification with a hamburger from mcsomething or a dip into the casino for a 15-minute tango with the one-armed bandit). delight, on the other hand, conjures up a long-lasting sweetness, a feeling of connectedness with the source of the delight, and openness.

which brings me to another set of opposites: receptivity vs. obsession. openness and receptivity are cousins, and so are obsession and gratification. obsession is “i must have it now“, “i must have this” and “i must have this“. there is not ifs and buts about obsession, no room to manoeuvre, you’re stuck in obsession.

receptivity stands there with open hands. “yes, i am ready”. we don’t know what will come, when it will come, there is patience and curiosity.