Male and Female: a Dance of Opposites
This fall I am officiating at a lot of weddings, which means lots of premarital sessions with couples. I always ask a couple to tell me their “Story.” How did they meet? What attracted them to each other? How and when did they know that this is the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with? Over and over I hear the truth of the statement “Opposites attract.”
In my own marriage I experience this as a reality. My husband and I continue to grow into what feels like a dance of opposites: a balance that is in constant creative tension, never stagnant, always shifting, moving, flowing back and forth. The symbol that best depicts this for me is the Buddhist Yin and Yang symbol: black and white, opposite shaped puzzle pieces that fit, but whose shape also depicts movement: when the black part is small the white part is large; when the black part is large the white part is small. Each part also contains a small circular piece of the other within itself. There are times in our marriage, when I yield to my husband, when I let him be the large one, and I the small. There are times in our relationship when it is better for me to be large, and him to be small.
Many people do not know that the white part of the yin and yang symbol is the yin, the feminine energy, and the black part is the yang, or masculine energy. In Hatha yoga, which I teach, we have the same principle: Ha means sun, masculine; Tha means moon, feminine. A Ha yoga or solar practice is hot, strong, and intense, a strength-building, kick-butt kind of practice. These must be balanced with lunar practices, which are cooling, calming, and restorative, like the moonlit night.
Yoga in fact, means “yoke.” Yoga is about balancing the masculine and feminine energies within ourselves. Psychologist Carl Jung says the same thing, only he calls these attributes: anima (feminine) and animus (masculine).
The fun part is that both male and female persons have masculine and feminine energies or attributes. My husband and I joke with each other because he loves romantic comedies, and always cries at the predictably happy endings; I on the other hand love a good boxing movie! He who is a strong, athletic (former professional football player) male sometimes has more female energy, and I, a pastor but also an athlete and black belt, at times exhibit more masculine energy. We both have both energies within us.
One of my favorite thinkers, Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, who also edited The Portable Jung), says, in fact, that marriage is a spiritual exercise in which two truly do become One. “What is marriage? The myth tells you what it is. It’s the reunion of the separated duad. Originally you were one. Now you are two in the world, but the recognition of the spiritual identity is what marriage is…Marrying the right person, we reconstruct the image of the incarnate God, and that’s what marriage is…the two really are one…but the one isn’t just you, it’s the two together as One. And that’s a purely mythological image signifying the sacrifice of the visible entity for a transcendent good.” (The Power of Myth)
In other words, I love the Tao (literally the Way) symbol of Yin and Yang because both halves are contained within a circle, a symbol of wholeness. Two opposites held together in a creative tension, a dancing balance, within the whole, the circle, the One.
Each person, male or female, must live this dance within him/herself. To be out of balance is to become ill. The words health, wholeness, and holiness all have the same root. When we live with a healthy balance of male and female energy within ourself, then we can live in a healthy relationship with another, male or female. The “opposites attract” idea works in same gender couples too, as they tell me that this is their experience also. What about organizations? I have learned the hard way that organizations also need a balance of male and female energies: too much of one and things go amuck!
A dance of opposites is essential on a large scale as well: institutions,including religious institutions, nations, governments. It does not take a genius to realize that many of the problems in our world today are because we have an imbalance of power, which gives a high value to male energy, and devalues female energy. Do we not realize that we are shooting ourselves not in the foot but right through our core?
A friend told me that Bill Gates travelled to Saudi Arabia, and was asked what they needed to do to become one of the top ten technological nations. He said, “Well, if you are not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you are not going to get too close to the top 10.” Amen! No person, marriage, religion, tribe, organization, nation will ever reach the fullness of its potential until it incorporates this dance of opposites, in which both are equally valued and realize their interdependence.
My husband tells me I need to coin a new word which captures this balance of female and male energies. I like the word balance, but he says that word is too static. I agree. When I picture the Tao yin and yang, I picture it as made up of a zillion pixels, all dancing in motion, interpenetrating, infusing each other. Alive. Energizing each other. Whole. I will let you know when I come up with a word that names this.
This day may you see God in all you encounter,
may you reflect God to all you encounter,
and may we come to be holy whole together.
Pastor Linda Forsberg, Copyright September 8, 2014
Photos: Painting of Genesis 1, by Victoria Forsberg-Lary; Yin and Yang symbol; Sun in Newport, RI; Moon in Boulder, CO; Yoga in Greece; photos from our wedding, thanks to Bonnie Anderson; photo of Tara and Greg, Easter Sunrise, Sandy Point Beach, Warwick, RI