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An Even Distribution of Weight

Dirk Ellingson

Submitted by columnist Dirk Ellingson

In Tai Chi Chuan, you constantly shift your weight between your right leg and left. The Chinese martial art aids practitioners with balance and mental clarity. Lifting one leg to become yin energy makes the other leg bearing the weight the yang leg. It’s a dance of complex choreography. The yin and yang symbols comprise the Taoism logo.  We’ve all seen that black and white circle with two components resembling fish or commas with eyes.

Clyde Stanley is a longtime martial arts instructor. Clyde Stanley’s Martial Arts studio is on Main Street in downtown Minden.  Sensei Stanley explained, “Yin-yang is an ancient Chinese philosophy. It represents real world wisdom and its well-known symbol is a circle that has an S-shaped division in the middle. Each half of the circle represents the complete opposite of the other such as hard-soft, day-night, fire-water, male-female, etc.  The two halves coexist within the big circle.” 

I’ve dabbled in yoga but prefer Tai Chi. I’m no expert in either but experienced that advanced yoga poses can be difficult to achieve. Whether practicing Tai Chi styles from the Yang, Chen, or some other school, the poses are not physically strenuous. The sequences are difficult to memorize, but the execution and flow are gentle on the joints.  Tai Chi strengthens core balance. Good balance is important for preventing falls.  

The older you get, the more you don’t want to take a tumble. I read a biography of Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach (1917-2006) and the coaching advice I most remember he gave to star center Bill Russell long after their cager days. “Don’t fall Russ,” Auerbach said when the pair were senior citizens.

Life is balance. Yin qualities include the feminine, the cool, the quiet, the calm, the light in weight. Yang qualities include the masculine, the hot, the noisy, the active, the heavy.  One of my complaints about southern culture is too much yang energy. It’s usually sunny and hot.  The people are often loud.

Cosmologies from religions to Star Wars propose dualism. This usually means one side is good and the other is bad. Choose a team. The Force/Jesus/Spirit are good. The Dark Side/Satan/Matter are evil. But the bifurcation of dualism can also represent equal and vital balance for defining contrast. The yin and yang of Taoism are essential to each other.  It isn’t one philosophy battling to prevail over its opposite. If one side is too strong or dominant, imbalance occurs. Different qualities define each other.

Chapter 2 of the Tao Te Ching states, “Indeed the hidden and the manifest give birth to each other. Difficult and easy complement each other.  Long and short exhibit each other.  High and low set measure to each other. Voice and sound harmonize each other.  Back and front follow each other.” How can I recognize a quality without knowing its opposite for contrast?

I hope to resume Tai Chi, a daily morning activity put on hold since my August motorcycle wreck. I don’t know how to practice Tai Chi with one leg. I’m still a week away from being allowed to put any weight on my left leg. For weeks turned months, the left leg has been yin and the right leg has been yang. I definitely feel out of balance. 

Walking forward will be challenge enough. What about going backwards during the Yang style Tai Chi move Repulse the Monkey? Will I again be able to execute Golden Pheasant Stands on One Leg balancing on my damaged leg? I will soon shift weight and walk.  But reaching a point where I can lift the right leg in the air, balance my right elbow and forearm atop my right knee, and place 100% of my weight my left foot? My confidence is shaken. What used to seem simple will now be a challenge. Even with the assistance of my new lifetime companion, an implanted titanium rod in my calf.

Likely many are unhappy about recent election results. Politics have seemingly grown partisan past the point of no return. I’ve voted for Democrats, Republicans, and even Libertarians during the past four decades. I’m puzzled by the ceaseless angry rhetoric. I can only conclude those holding extreme views must hope for the complete eradication of their opponents. I’ve asked people watching a steady diet of FOX news just what is their desired outcome. Elimination of the Democratic party? Is that the endgame aspiration?  

Granted Donald Trump took the Grand Old Party down some indecorous paths. But can progressive liberals not recognize the Republican party includes some sensible and capable leaders? Do passionate Democrats desire any ballot alternatives besides those with leftist leanings?

In my opinion, we shouldn’t see Republicans and Democrats as one side needing to vanquish the other. The system of checks and balances is valuable. I’m glad we voters are given choices. I wish we had more. Yin and yang could apply to the halls of legislation.

Convalescence allowed me to watch more political news commentary in recent weeks.  National elections and the Sturm and Drang of partisan bickering was unpleasant and yet riveting theater. I’m not an optimist by nature but I hope we move on from this.  National dialogue needs less argument and more listening.  

The traumatic intrusion of a broken leg and ribs in my own life should make me less inclined to petty grumbling over minor problems. I will try and be thankful for rediscovered mobility once taken for granted. When my left leg resumes yang stature part of the time, I can regain balance. Not just physically but mentally.  

If we recognize political parties can and should work in cooperation, our country will regain balance. Be suspicious of candidates who proclaim the other side has no valid points. Those willing to work across the aisle in a spirit of compromise are leaders we need. Those offering little more than angry blame and insults are unworthy of elected office.

Regroup losing team. This is an opportunity to get your beleaguered political house in order and return stronger. Contrary to the sentiment expressed in recent elections, your country needs you.