Last night I was invited to a very interesting event which, in light of school visits, teacher observation, QA, QI etc., sported an added dimension. The event was a 2-hour talk (including activities for the audience) on Yin-Yang theory by fellow tai chi practitioner Andreas Schoter and the purpose of our being there was to allow him to test drive the material and its presentation in the hope of feedback. Andreas may be familiar to some already as he generously agreed to help me out in a demo of tai chi chuan in Wallyford PS’s Health Week in June – an afternoon he thoroughly enjoyed.

The subject matter itself was fascinating, particularly as some of it resides at what I can only describe as the edge of language – particularly reference to wuji translated by Chen Man Ching as pre-conceptual. We, in the West at any rate, tend readily to conceptualise by means of opposing pairs e.g. love/hate or sound/silence.

The presentation touched upon:

  • quantum physics – spontaneous appearance in the void of pairs of opposing, virtual particles and their effect on nearby stable particles
  • the symbols used in the I Ching (yijing) – how yin and yang, symbolised by a broken and solid line respectively, are combined to form bigrams, trigrams and eventually hexagrams – and how each successive layer affords a higher order of detail*
  • parallels between yin & yang and the foundation of information theory i.e. 1 and 0 in binary code
  • language – the multiplicity of meanings afforded by the metaphorical language used to interpret the trigrams and hexagrams in the I Ching
  • the effect this language on meaning and the resulting contrast between Eastern & Western Philosophies i.e. the ability of Eastern metaphorical language to squeeze in as many possible meanings into a given context (the resultant variety of which not being a source of tension) compared to the striving through unambiguous western philosophical discourse to arrive at the meaning
  • applications in everyday life – to cite a reality in one’s life, decide if it is yin or yang, select and describe its opposite and then try to locate the axis between these two polarities. The example given was from the speaker’s day job as a computer trainer where he cited difficult adult students as a yang reality, pre-emptive strategies as an effective yin counterpart – the axis being contained in guidelines, instructions, lesson plans, communication skills etc.

All of these issues are dealt with in more detail on Andreas yijing website.

Equally interesting was the endgame where questions and feedback were invited – the purpose of which was to refine presentation of the same ideas for future audiences. Some simply thought that elements which had evaded their complete understanding should be either omitted or prefaced by a longer introduction; others claimed that a 15-min over-run was not, in fact, due to the necessarily protracted dialogues in the activities session, but  rather to problems of tempo in the opening; others simply mentioned their dislikes e.g. graphics etc. Occasionally a suggestion for an alternative example of a concept was offered. In all cases, Andreas thanked the person for their contribution, agreed with or acknowledged the point, jotted down some notes and then looked up for further contributions. He may, in the end, have returned home and crossed scored out all of our names from his address book, but I don’t think so.

Most importantly of all, I left the room feeling much more alive then when I arrived. You can’t ask much more of two hours in a church hall.

* take as an example tidal photographs of a harbour. High and low tide are clear enough but a photograph of the water level in between is incapable of conveying ebb or flow. However, an additional dimension of polarity (and therefore information) is afforded in the cycles of the moon where the side upon which the reflected light of the Sun appears informs a diagnosis of waxing or waning.

One thought on “Observation”

  1. If you see a picture of a harbour and want to work out whether the tide is coming in or on its way out, look at the harbour wall. If it is wet above the level of the water then its on its way out. If its dry then its on its way in. If its raining then its your call.

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