Yang is light. Yin is darkness. Yang is knowing. Yin is not-knowing. Yang is positive. Yin is negative. Yang is life. Yin is death.

All these are reversible, of course. “Reversal is the movement of the Dao.” (Laozi 40) This means that they can all be equalized and “united to form a oneness.” Psychological Dao is realizing this oneness. Yet not-oneness remains. “Realizing” is by nature dualistic. As the convergence of all daos, Dao is both oneness and not-oneness.

Life and death taken as a single thread is the realization of this oneness. They are equalized. The sage is thankful for both. She welcomes life’s coming and its going. This is the uniting of yin and yang to form a oneness. She therefore is able to make the best use of each in their not-oneness. The use of life is living and the enjoyment of life. The use of death is . . . .

What is the use of death? Death is the looming of Yin. It is the contextualization of our yang in yin. Yin, darkness, sheds light on our yang.

We are caught in this vise, this existential dangle. All of Zhuangzi’s philosophy can be seen as a response to death, an embrace of this yin. There is no escape; there are only coping mechanisms. From the human perspective, this is at the heart of messiness. It probably didn’t have to be; the universe could have remained self-consciousness free. But it happened. Accidentally—for all practical purposes. Now we are left to live with it.

Thus, yin and yang can themselves be united to form a oneness. But in our not-oneness they are very useful dualistic concepts by which to orient ourselves in the world.

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