Balance and symmetry in some quarters is attained by reducing everyone to a common denominator, the one-size-fits-all syndrome. That is like attaining a "flatline" in medical science, which means "to die or be so near death that the display of one's vital signs shows a flat line rather than peaks and troughs."
We hear innumerable pleas for balance and symmetry. But like most other thought images, the picture of symmetry does not always come clear nor do our attempts to perform it produce all the wonders we expect. This may be because we do not realize the rather unsymmetrical process by which symmetry comes to be. For life gets on by jerks and bounds quite as much as it does by the gliding process.
Harmonious living is the mantra of China’s current host culture. In fact, in government operations, decision-making, foreign policy, and anything conceptually propounded from Beijing these days goes by symphonic harmony.
We did, however, run into a sorry state of "lost in translation" in an airy idealized Himalayan version of equanimity. In encouraging students to expand their self-introductions from simply describing and stating their personal circumstances of birth, family, and education, we added guideline questions on their feelings, thoughts, and intended actions. One on feelings was, "What excites you?"
One of the female students somberly stood up and after clearing the objective data on her oral CV, she declared that she was a person of peace, and that nothing excites her at all! She said this with all seriousness that I wondered if she just avoided the question altogether, or there was something else I was not getting.
It turns out that excitement is equated with violent passion, and in the current Chinese parlance, passion is not an operative word. Add intensity and aggressiveness and one would not be caught claiming such a state of being at all.
One of the profound images in the Chinese pantheon of symbols is the Taiji, which was banned during the Cultural Revolution (’66-’76) for the superstition it represented in its religious use. It is slowly coming back into common usage; commercial signage has brought it back, though it is still hard to locate it in official symbols nor even in the pagoda temple stores.
What is very common in jewelry along the shopping malls of Xiang Gang (Hong Kong), Aomen (Macao), Taibei (Taipei) and Singapura are many variations of the yin-yang. Even the tattoo parlors of Saipan market the image, preferred by visiting Japanese, Korean, and Chinese clientele.
What the Taiji represents, to those who consciously abide by its primordial metaphor, is the fundamental stance of being at the pivot, in the hinge or at a turn, and in basketball, one foot is stationary and in place while the body spins.
There is no word for this stance among practitioners of kung fu, judo, and taekwando. The gesture is simply that of the clasped right fist under the left palm in a respecting bow, used in martial arts exhibitions. It is the beginning and the end points. That this gesture originated in the Shaolin temples of contemplation, meditation, and prayer makes the martial art discipline an act of defense rather than aggression.
Our Western dialectical stance echoes back to Aryan Zoroaster’s dichotomy between the force of light confronting the state of darkness, a confrontational stance in which the eternal battle between light and darkness, good and evil, right and wrong, ensues forever. We latch on to the Hegelian image of thesis-antithesis clash that results in a synthesis as the major operating image in our thoughts and behavior. Thus, the Bush White House did not find any contradiction in rationalizing that for universal peace to abide, one must be in a perpetual state of war! Alas, our warriors have found cause in the drums of war, neglecting the corresponding and equally necessary songs of peace!
The excesses of the Cultural Revolution gave "excitement" an unwelcome connotation. The unplanned and unexpected turns unleashed by the notion of perpetual revolution were horrendous. What we do not want to acknowledge, however, is the entrenched power and position of the intelligentsia and illuminati, the resilience of old forms and practices from the assault of relevance and necessary change, and the window-dressing role relegated to women, youth, and peasants over the preponderance of the urban bourgeoisie!
So what has this got to do with the cost of rice on Saipan?
When I resided at a two-story apartment along As Lito, a high school teacher colleague was part of a martial art group meeting on the first floor, and it was always a delight to see young Turks whose energy would otherwise make them young thugs in the street; they exhibited discipline and method in their art. What was, however, disconcerting was the apparent "thugs" that enjoyed running the show where the discipline was more a branch of the Wehrmacht and its brown shirts. It was no surprise then to see the Aryan swastika among the symbols of the group.
The fundamental metaphor of Micronesia harkens to the Om and the Yin-yang of faraway places, before the Western dialectics engulfed our minds. This dialectic pervades our discourse (e.g., Reyes-Manglona tiff) and governance (e.g., horde v. Fitial).
Perhaps, it is time to get to the pivot!