What About Yin and Yang..

I don’t remember now how Yin/Yang got my interest back in 2014 but it was an interesting topic to study. It resulted in an eleven post series to covered many aspects of the Yin/Yang. This page is a composite of those posts.  

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (also yin-yang or yin yang, 陰陽yīnyáng “dark—bright”) describes how opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang.

SOURCE: Wikipedia

Yin and yang -The Basics

2014-05-01_10-26-21 The symbol for this concept is shown to the right.

In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang (simplified Chinese: 阴阳; traditional Chinese: 陰陽; pinyin: yīnyáng), which is often called “yin and yang”, is used to describe how opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, high and low, hot and cold, fire and water, life and death, male and female, sun and moon, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept…

Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (instead of opposing) forces interacting to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the parts. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. SOURCE: Yin and yang – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

I got  in the study of Yin/Yang when I started to ask myself questions about the idea that each of us has a male and a female part. The balance of those two determine how we generally respond to the world around us.  As the above cites the total of the two energies is considered greater than individual pieces. This is known as synergy.

2014-05-01_10-36-35There is a wide variety of information about this topic. In my study I choose to concentrate on the more secular concepts and pretty much ignored the spiritual arena. I chose a book entitled “The Yin Yang Complex” by Brendan Foley as my primary source to start the study. I imagine I will be looking at other sources also. I will be using quotes from this book to most of these posts. Some concepts of yin/yang are very philosophical in nature; I will not be covering those aspects nor am I really aligned with many of them to any degree.

Let’s start out with how the author basically categorizes yin/yang with the above focus.

YOUR MASCULINE AND FEMININE ENERGIES Masculine Energy (yang) Positive Forces      Strength, activeness, thinking, forcefulness, goal orientation, productiveness, quantitative-orientation, exuberance, dynamism, adventurousness, innovation, outward moving, structured, achievement-orientation, extravert, judging

Feminine Energy (yin) Positive Forces    Creative, intuitive, flowing, beginnings and ends, harmonious, nurturing, inward drawing, reflective, containing, considerate, qualitative-orientation, loving, introverted, feeling, perceptive, knowing Foley, Brendan (2010-01-01). The Yin Yang Complex: How to Harmonize Your Yin and Yang: “Life Changing” (p. 28). Mercier Press. Kindle Edition.

Please remember that each of us has both masculine and feminine forces so this concept should not be considered sexist in nature

Yin/Yang The Balance….

2014-05-01_10-26-21

This balance of male and female is also very evident in Native American Indian culture where the earth is called ‘Mother earth’ and the sky ‘Father Sky’. The Indians were not alone. The ancient Greeks also believed in father sky, who they called Zeus, and mother earth who they called Demeter. The Celts, the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Egyptians and the Tibetans all have circular mandalas and other symbols denoting the balance between the male and female energies… It is more than just a coincidence that all of these ancient religions and belief systems offer the same concept of masculine and feminine energies, especially seeing as many of these civilisations had little or no contact with one another. Yet in the modern-day western world we have scarcely any awareness of the incredible and dynamic energies that surround us.

The main question for all of us in terms of our personal development is how do these energies manifest in us? Are you a kind, considerate and loving woman who lacks the drive and energy required to achieve certain goals in your life? Are you a competitive, career-driven, goal-focused man who struggles to relate to your partner, children and others around you? All of us have strengths and weaknesses that stem from our individual balance of masculine and feminine energies. If you fail to effectively balance the yin and yang energies within you, then you will fail to lead a fulfilled and happy existence. Foley, Brendan (2010-01-01). The Yin Yang Complex: How to Harmonize Your Yin and Yang: “Life Changing” (pp. 31-32). Mercier Press. Kindle Edition.

Turning this quote personal, throughout my life I have always struggled with many things I thought it took to be manly. I abhor violence in any form and seem to have too much compassion for others. I was just not as competitive minded as many of my friends were.  I questioned whether that made me less manly.

As we will be covering in more detail in future posts I think that this almost total lack of understanding between yin and yang creates many problems for us in the western world.  I am reluctant to say it but I  believe that this ignorance is part of the problem of gender identification with some of our youth in recent decades.  I can personally say I struggled with it at least to some degree during those tumultuous years myself.

With this study I have come to further appreciate the balance between yin and yang in my personal life. I did some pretty stupid things in my life because I didn’t want to be called a sissy. Part of my problems in this area was probably due to having no females in my daily life until I was pretty much middle-aged. I just didn’t know much about the feminine side of life to know the difference.

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….

Yin and Yang – The Basic Characteristics….

YinYang

The above graphic gives a pretty simple view of yin and yang.  The characteristics on the left side are Yang and the right side Yin. As indicated a healthy balance is required for a happy life. Too much of either Yin or Yang is toxic. I must admit that I have modified this graph in that I removed the words Masculine and Feminine and replace them with Yin and Yang. In the Asian culture Yang is identified as male characteristics and Yin as female. Things are changing in that part of the world but it is still a very gender segregated world. The U.S. has been quickly, at least to this American male, moving away from that stereotype for most of my lifetime.

All of us have a blend of the traits shown on this graphic.

Personally I can very much identify with the following Yang traits:

Analytical – My analytical mind is what made me a superior software developer in my work life. I was able to break down difficult projects into their elemental parts.

Singular – “I am who I am” is kind of a sub-theme of my life. I don’t mind, in fact I somewhat relish being different from others. It makes me ask questions where others would simply go along with the crowd

Rational – I am very much a rational being. I don’t automatically buy into beliefs or creeds simply because someone tells me to. I must be convinced that they make sense in the “real” world.

Determined –  My wife says I have a “single-purpose” mind in that I devote almost total attention to the task as hand. Being deaf helps me some in this area. I am not distracted by as many outside annoyances as many are.

Goal-directed – In my mind goal-directed and determined are peas in the same pod. I can very easily focus on one particular goal to the exclusion of almost everything else.

I can also very much identify with the following Yin traits:

Emotional – I wear my heart on my sleeve so to speak. I frequently cry as movie endings. Well at least “old” movie endings. They don’t make movies like that anymore it seems. Some say when emotions flair reason disappears; I don’t see it that way.

Passionate – I am very passionate about certain things in life.  Being a follower of Christ is something I take very seriously. I am also passionate about justice and equal opportunity.  I am also passionate about writing and reading. In fact, because I am deaf I spend most of my waking hours reading in one form or another.

Empathetic – Some times I let my passions and emotions take over my life. I am often very forceful and definite in expression of my beliefs. In those times I come across as a “pain in the ass” to some because of my emphatic qualities

Allow for “flow” – I am not stuck in my ways but am open to seeing things in a new light. I try to embrace change rather than fight it.

Creative – I like to think of myself as a creative person but sometime get discouraged because I am not as creativity as I would like.

I believe I have a good blend of yin and yang but probably lean more yin than most men. Next time I will start on an extended view of the differences between America and Asia when it comes to yin/yang.

 

The Yin/Yang Differences Between America And Asia – Dreams

impossibleNothing is more distinctive than Americans’ disbelief in impossibilities. Every day Americans receive invitations to dream big dreams, and they give the traditional exuberant American answer, “Why not!” In contrast, many Asians believe that things happen as a result of fate: their success or failure in life, work, and marriage is determined by the year, month , date, hour, and place of their birth. Because they believe that their futures were laid out at birth, many people passively accept undesirable conditions rather than try to shape or alter their destinies. Interestingly, in Chinese, the word for destiny consists of two characters. The first, woon, means “dynamic flow,” and the second, myung, means “movement of the absolute.”…. In Korea, where I grew up, I was often reminded of an old Korean saying, “Don’t even look at a tree if you cannot climb it.” We were told that it is a virtue to know one’s limitations….

Due to this cultural orientation, many Asians still believe that their lot was determined by a divine force before they were born. In contrast, Americans are told, “Know your limits and ignore them.” This sky’s-the-limit outlook has enabled them to create one of the world’s wealthiest nations in a very short time. Leaders such as Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger encouraged people to pursue wealth through hard work. Universities use Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich as a textbook in classes on American success. Such an atmosphere has produced world-renowned rich people such as Rockefeller, Ford, Du Pont, Carnegie, and Gates. It is not a coincidence that the greatest concentration of wealth is in the United States. SOURCE: Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox  Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

It is widely accepted that as far as yin/gang is concerned America and Asia are quite different. America is much more yang and Asia yin.  The above quote helps us to understand some of those very basic difference. We proudly know that we Americans are just more creative than our Asian counterparts. A big part of that difference is due to the continued caste mentality among many Asian cultures. Being a born and bred American I simply can’t understand how someone could just accept that their place in life is to be a servant because of their birth. I don’t think I, as an American, am unusual in that regard.

Dreaming the big dreams, even though we might never accomplish them, is what keeps us Americans going. At least for some of us”Why Not!” is indeed a basic part of American mentality. But there are some Americans who, like their Asian counterparts, believe that their life is predestined by a heavenly authority. Of course everything is not rosy in the U.S. especially in the last couple decades. Life’s opportunities have skewed very dramatically to the upper end of the economic scale now and there is no end of this in sight in this regard. The middle class is literally disappearing. But still we remain the shining light in the world when it comes to “know your limits and then ignore them”. I, like most Americans are very proud of that fact.

The Yin/Yang Differences Between America And Asia – Dreams

Nothing is more distinctive than Americans’ disbelief in impossibilities. Every day Americans receive invitations to dream big dreams, and they give the traditional exuberant American answer, “Why not!” In contrast, many Asians believe that things happen as a result of fate: their success or failure in life, work, and marriage is determined by the year, month , date, hour, and place of their birth. Because they believe that their futures were laid out at birth, many people passively accept undesirable conditions rather than try to shape or alter their destinies. Interestingly, in Chinese, the word for destiny consists of two characters. The first, woon, means “dynamic flow,” and the second, myung, means “movement of the absolute.”…. In Korea, where I grew up, I was often reminded of an old Korean saying, “Don’t even look at a tree if you cannot climb it.” We were told that it is a virtue to know one’s limitations….

Due to this cultural orientation, many Asians still believe that their lot was determined by a divine force before they were born. In contrast, Americans are told, “Know your limits and ignore them.” This sky’s-the-limit outlook has enabled them to create one of the world’s wealthiest nations in a very short time. Leaders such as Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger encouraged people to pursue wealth through hard work. Universities use Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich as a textbook in classes on American success. Such an atmosphere has produced world-renowned rich people such as Rockefeller, Ford, Du Pont, Carnegie, and Gates. It is not a coincidence that the greatest concentration of wealth is in the United States. SOURCE: Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox  Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

It is widely accepted that as far as yin/gang is concerned America and Asia are quite different. America is much more yang and Asia yin.  The above quote helps us to understand some of those very basic difference. We proudly know that we Americans are just more creative than our Asian counterparts. A big part of that difference is due to the continued caste mentality among many Asian cultures. Being a born and bred American I simply can’t understand how someone could just accept that their place in life is to be a servant because of their birth. I don’t think I, as an American, am unusual in that regard.

Dreaming the big dreams, even though we might never accomplish them, is what keeps us Americans going. At least for some of us”Why Not!” is indeed a basic part of American mentality. But there are some Americans who, like their Asian counterparts, believe that their life is predestined by a heavenly authority. Of course everything is not rosy in the U.S. especially in the last couple decades. Life’s opportunities have skewed very dramatically to the upper end of the economic scale now and there is no end of this in sight in this regard. The middle class is literally disappearing. But still we remain the shining light in the world when it comes to “know your limits and then ignore them”. I, like most Americans are very proud of that fact.

Yin/Yang And Creativity….

2014-05-01_10-26-21Many of the world’s greatest inventions are credited to Americans, from the telephone to the computer. Anesthesia, the miracle of painless surgery, is among the greatest gifts that American medicine has given to humanity. The invention of the safety device on passenger elevators by Elisha Otis in 1852 led to the construction of skyscrapers and encouraged metropolitan growth around the world. Nylon , the first man-made synthetic fiber, invented by the du Pont company, has forever changed the lives of people around the world. The impact of Bill Gates’ MS-DOS is not even measurable. Some attribute Americans’ genius to their ability to question, to think critically and creatively.

Professor Chin Ning Yang, a Chinese American Nobel laureate in physics, related the experience of some of his students from China and Taiwan. “Professor Yang,” they would say to him, “I find it very strange that I was among the best in my class in examinations, but now that I am doing research work, the American students are much more lively, much better than I am.” Yang believes that despite the criticism of the American educational system, it produces highly creative individuals. Now Yang encourages his Asians students to explore: “You may see only vaguely what is going on, but you should not be afraid of that. That was one of the things I learned after I came to this country [America].” Indeed, it is incredible that 29 percent of Silicon Valley CEOs were born in Asia.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 435-446). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I was proudly part of the company that started the current technological revolution by inventing the transistor. When I started college in the 1960s I was taught how the vacuum tube worked. But before very long the transistor took over and things really began to accelerate.  The 1960s and 70s was a great time for the U.S. technologically. We simply ruled the world.

Back then a couple of kids in their garages went about miniaturizing the main frame computers of IBM. They put crude devices, at least by today’s standards, on a desktop instead of requiring a massive air filtered room. I can remember when Jonas Sulk invented the polio vaccine.

I, and I image many of you, sometimes take for granted much of what we have in this country. But when we take a serious look at much of the rest of the world we come to understand America’s strengths. Creativity has been almost an exclusive American product.

“You may see only vaguely what is going on, but you should not be afraid of that. That was one of the things I learned after I came to this country [America].”

These words are at the core of the differences between America and Asia. We American were just not afraid when things became somewhat muddied.  We embraced change at almost all levels of our society. Sadly, I’m not sure that is as true any longer among a larger segment of our society. Fear, particularly the fear of change has overtaken too many of us.

 

The Yin/Yang Differences Between America And Asia – Dreams

Nothing is more distinctive than Americans’ disbelief in impossibilities. Every day Americans receive invitations to dream big dreams, and they give the traditional exuberant American answer, “Why not!” In contrast, many Asians believe that things happen as a result of fate: their success or failure in life, work, and marriage is determined by the year, month , date, hour, and place of their birth. Because they believe that their futures were laid out at birth, many people passively accept undesirable conditions rather than try to shape or alter their destinies. Interestingly, in Chinese, the word for destiny consists of two characters. The first, woon, means “dynamic flow,” and the second, myung, means “movement of the absolute.”…. In Korea, where I grew up, I was often reminded of an old Korean saying, “Don’t even look at a tree if you cannot climb it.” We were told that it is a virtue to know one’s limitations….

Due to this cultural orientation, many Asians still believe that their lot was determined by a divine force before they were born. In contrast, Americans are told, “Know your limits and ignore them.” This sky’s-the-limit outlook has enabled them to create one of the world’s wealthiest nations in a very short time. Leaders such as Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger encouraged people to pursue wealth through hard work. Universities use Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich as a textbook in classes on American success. Such an atmosphere has produced world-renowned rich people such as Rockefeller, Ford, Du Pont, Carnegie, and Gates. It is not a coincidence that the greatest concentration of wealth is in the United States. SOURCE: Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox  Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

It is widely accepted that as far as yin/gang is concerned America and Asia are quite different. America is much more yang and Asia yin.  The above quote helps us to understand some of those very basic difference. We proudly know that we Americans are just more creative than our Asian counterparts. A big part of that difference is due to the continued caste mentality among many Asian cultures. Being a born and bred American I simply can’t understand how someone could just accept that their place in life is to be a servant because of their birth. I don’t think I, as an American, am unusual in that regard.

Dreaming the big dreams, even though we might never accomplish them, is what keeps us Americans going. At least for some of us”Why Not!” is indeed a basic part of American mentality. But there are some Americans who, like their Asian counterparts, believe that their life is predestined by a heavenly authority. Of course everything is not rosy in the U.S. especially in the last couple decades. Life’s opportunities have skewed very dramatically to the upper end of the economic scale now and there is no end of this in sight in this regard. The middle class is literally disappearing. But still we remain the shining light in the world when it comes to “know your limits and then ignore them”. I, like most Americans are very proud of that fact.

Yin/Yang and American Culture….Winning…

No doubt competition has produced for the United States some of the best professionals, the best products, and the best business practices in the world. Nevertheless, there is a downside to Americans’ emphasis on winning at any cost. The pressure to win can be overwhelming in America, where only winners are cheered and remembered and the winner takes all, including multimillion-dollar advertising contracts. Tonya Harding, the figure skater who arranged to have her Olympic competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, injured, is an extreme example of the pressure to win… The overemphasis on competition also contributes to a hostile workplace. Employees constantly compete against their peers and lose sleep over who gets credit for a new sales plan or for having the best ideas; this discourages teamwork and strains human relations. At school, cheating has become a serious concern when even the top students do it regularly.

Asians believe that it is neither necessary nor beneficial to be obsessed with winning. Although they set goals for surpassing their previous achievements and emphasize doing their personal best, when it comes to competing with others, Asians choose their battles carefully. They consider the cost of winning, not materially but emotionally and socially. In human relations, many Asians believe that it is better to promote peace and harmony than to win at any cost. It is dangerous to think that if one is not a winner, one must be a loser. Some may look like losers at first, but they may turn out to be winners in the long run. As Lao Tzu said in Tao Te Ching, “In natural law, some lose and yet profit along the way. Some profit and yet lose along their way.” Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 656-668). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This is one of those areas where Yin wins out for me. I think we Americans are just too obsessed with winning. I am a competitive person but it is introverted rather than pointed at defeating others.  I don’t see the point in making everyone else losers so I can be a winner.

Our fanaticism with sports in this country epitomizes our obsession with winning. It is all about defeating the other team. I was never much of a team player in my early years and for the last 25 years or so I have not watched any sporting event other than in passing. Vince Lombardi’s famous quote “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing” turns me off. I just don’t see the point in sports.

I spent the first 25 years of my work life in the Midwest. It was not until I spent the last five years in the East Coast (NY/NJ) that I was really faced with the overemphasis of competition which inevitably creates a hostile work environment. The backstabbing and emphasis for getting the credit, whether deserved or not, totally turned me off! I left that environment as soon as possible after becoming fully pension eligible.

Defeating the other guy has never been very important to me but I do strive to get better at what I do everyday. I sometimes set outrageous goals for myself in order to insure that I keep progressing in both my personal and spiritual life. Helping to promote peace is one of my primary focuses in life. We don’t need to hate or even fear others simply because they are different from us.  To me winning is only winning when others benefit as well as ourselves.  I just don’t buy into the idea that if you are not a winner then you are a loser….

Yin/Yang and American Culture…. Women

“There are two kinds of women in the world: American women and women.” This is a joke among Asian men doing business internationally. American women have been liberated and empowered to such a degree that they belong in a category all their own among the women of the world. Compared with their counterparts in other countries, American women have accomplished a great deal in career advancement. Even European nations that maintain progressive, family oriented programs lag far behind the United States in providing equal employment opportunities to women. In Japan, Germany, and other European and Asian countries, women face serious obstacles to achieving workplace equality. They are expected to assist men and are given lower wages, less stable employment, and fewer opportunities for advancement.

Furthermore, in Confucian tradition, women could not interrupt men’s conversations or speak loudly or be aggressive. Women were told, “If a hen cries, the family will disintegrate.” Many Asian women still do not assert their rights at home or at work. Asian men tend to resent assertive women, and Asian women are afraid of offending their men. Many Japanese women still speak in a higher-than-natural pitch (for social acceptance), especially in formal settings, on the phone, or when dealing with customers. Supposedly, Japanese men are attracted to high-pitched voices ; they perceive women with lower voices as too aggressive or unfeminine.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 751-754). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I consider equality of condition and opportunity to be by far the greatest American tradition and am proud that women have come so far in our society during my lifetime. Those of us who are over sixty remember when American women’s place was generally in the home. She had little opportunities outside of that environment. The shortage of men to do factory work during World War II showed women that they could do almost anything they desired. Once they discovered that they didn’t look back.

The subservient attitudes of and toward women in much the rest of the world saddens me. Asian cultures are beginning to break down barriers but not fast enough.  And then there are the Muslim countries who treat women worse than slaves. Burkas should go the way of slave chains in this world. To treat such a significant portion of any population that way is shameful to me. I know traditions are hard to break in some cultures but break they eventually must. I hope that the American model will eventually incite changes in the rest of the world. We definitely have something to teach so many others in that regard.

It makes me proud to see that the rest of the world sees our accomplishments in this area.

Yin/Yang and American Culture…. Disabilities

A few months after I came to America, one of my American friends showed me a picture of her sister. “Isn’t she precious?” she said. I was taken aback ; her sister had Down’s syndrome. On another occasion, when I first met my new neighbor, she revealed that she had a mentally retarded son who was sixteen but had the mental capacity of a five-year-old. I admire Americans’ openness about disability….

In Asia, the disabled are treated as less than fully human… Mental retardation or physical disability is a stigma to a family, partly because of the influence of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, life is a series of causes and consequences, and a person’s disability may be punishment for having behaved badly in a former life or for having a cruel ancestor. Thus, family members with mentally retarded children are often ashamed and rarely tell others about them. An elementary school classmate of mine in Korea had a handicapped brother. Whenever I visited her house, her mother put him in a bathroom or somewhere else where visitors couldn’t see him. Thirty years later, public perception of disabilities in Asia has not improved much. Even in Japan, the most industrially advanced and urbanized society in Asia, disabled people face discrimination, humiliation, and inconvenience every day.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 810-820). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This post of course is going to get rather personal with me. Being deaf I have experienced prejudices in my life even in the U.S. but it has probably been very minor compared to those in Asia.  America was not exempt from the description above, it is just that we for the most part conquered that phobia years ago whereas Asia has yet to approach it.

Almost anyone who doesn’t know me and approached me as a deaf person automatically assumes several things. The one that gets to me the most is that I am less intelligent than most. Even though the saying “deaf and dumb” is pretty much a thing of the past the thought still flourishes among many. The second thing is that since I am deaf I am not worth the effort to get to know me. Many simply write me off as a possible future friend.  I must admit that these feeling are not limited to just those of us who are deaf. They also apply to many who are handicapped in other ways. A person in a wheelchair is for the most part ignored by most.  I personally make a diligent effort to make eye contact and greet everyone I come across who is handicapped.

I can’t imagine the obstacles put in front of people with handicaps in Asia. To be put into a virtual closet away from family and friends is shameful to me. Asians need to get over the idea that mental and physical handicaps are God’s punishment for past actions. At least for Christianity Jesus tells us very directly that that is not the case.  Stigma is hard to break in any culture. I am at least grateful that we have done a better job in this area than our Asian brothers and sisters. But haven’t we found that to be true in so many areas in this yin/yang study?

 

Yin/Yang and American Culture…. Remaining Active

Old PeopleAlthough America is criticized for its youth-oriented culture, American elders enjoy more productive lives than their Asian counterparts do. From working as independent consultants to serving as volunteers, American elders can retain their zest for life….

In contrast, many Asian elderly expect to stop learning at a certain age. It is rare to see an elderly person visiting a library unless he or she was a scholar. The typical mentality for Asians over fifty-five is, “I’m old, so what is learning for?” Opportunities for elders to lead productive lives or use their energy in positive ways are limited in Asia.

Unlike in America, it is difficult in Asia for senior citizens to get jobs at restaurants, grocery stores, or elsewhere. In Asia, even the volunteer organizations do not appreciate the services of elders. In the United States, an eighty-year-old man who opens the door for patients at a hospital is one of almost 445,000 retired seniors who do volunteer work. They serve their community as public park guides, library storytellers, and literacy mentors, among many other roles….

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 1062-1094). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This topic rather surprised me in that I always thought that the elderly in Asia were treated with greater respect than in this country. The author did go on to say that if the elder “earned” respect then it is generally given. I don’t know how that works though. How much is enough for earned respect?

I am very thankful that in America elders can and generally lead very productive lives. I have been retired/semi-retired for going on to fifteen years now and I can honestly say that I think as far as my contributions to society go I have been much more productive during these years than I ever was during my “working” years. Of course it also follows that, despite all my growing aches and pains, these years have been the happiest of my life.

The quote above says that about half a million seniors do volunteer. But remember that this book was written in 2001 and that number has increased substantially since then.  Ms. Eun says further in her book that many Asian elders don’t bother to take care of themselves during their senior years. It seems that all they do is wait to die so to speak. How sad is that? Almost as sad as a woman having to cover her entire body when she goes out in public so that men won’t see her.  😦

I certainly appreciate that things in America are better for us seniors than they are in Asia…