Yin, Yang And The USA

2014-05-15_16-29-54The concept of Yin/Yang originated in China thousands of years ago but the thoughts behind it are common to many other traditions. The concept is all about balance. Here are some examples:

Black/White — There is very little in life that is black or white; everything is a shade of grey which of course is a combination of the two.

Hot/Cold — Who wants to take a shower in either totally hot or totally cold water?  Maybe some teenagers need some cold showers once in a while but most of us prefer a combination of the two

Everything/Nothing — It seems that for us Americans we are usually at the yang end (everything) in this dichotomy. Our capitalist system almost demands that we consume more and more as the years go by.

2014-05-15_19-50-46I originally thought I would use another book as the primary source for this series of posts but decided to change to one entitled “Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox” by Eun Y. Kim.

Dr. Kim,who became a naturalized U.S. citizen  in 2000 and wrote this book in 2001 has since went on to become a very influential person on the international stage. She offers a unique perspective on American life similar to Alex De Tocqueville in the mid-19th century.  Here is a little from the preface to the book to help you understand more about her.

It has been a long journey from Korea, where I had my first interactions with Americans when I was only eight years old . My father , who was an educator, believed in foreign language education during early childhood and sent me to a language institute in Seoul when I was a third-grader. It was a place for American children in Korea to learn English, but for me it was a place to learn English as a second language and to experience American people and culture. All Koreans have had a close acquaintanceship with America since the Korean War. In school, we studied the contributions of numerous Americans, including George Washington, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin , Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. We had to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, and the Monroe Doctrine. For fun and play, we saw American movies like Ben-Hur, The Sound of Music, Love Story, Gone with the Wind, Rocky, Saturday Night Fever….

Through these experiences, we grew up with a fascination for America. We looked up to Americans as “superior” people and perceived America as a symbol of all virtues. We admired Americans as intelligent, rational, civil, clean, fair, generous, and sophisticated and envied those who had the opportunity to go to the United States.

Dr. Kim spends much time in this book studying American culture and how it is different from her native Korea. It is a very interesting look at the U.S. from a different perspective and from a different philosophical point of view. I think you will enjoy this approach to understanding Yin and Yang and the differences between East and West….