The Tao of Roark

by Peter Saint-Andre

Chapter 30: Yin and Yang

Previous: Chapter 29: To Feel and Not to Feel

To live successfully, Howard Roark found it necessary to balance thinking and not thinking, choosing and not choosing, acting and not acting, feeling and not feeling — to balance what Chinese philosophers call the yin and the yang.

The yang is that which is more rational, Apollonian, objective, public, open, well-known, bright, scientific, logical, explicit, lucid, clear, hard, dry, airy, powerful, firm, active — that which is related to the sky gods, to high mountains, to Olympus.

The yin is that which is more emotional, Dionysian, subjective, private, personal, unknown, shadowy, humanistic, perceptual, implicit, tacit, opaque, soft, damp, watery, solid, yielding, passive — that which is related to the gods of land and water, to things that are earthy and oceanic.

To think clearly and rationally, to choose my values and focus on what I find important, to create great value and reshape the earth in the image of my values, even to be passionate about life — these, for Rand, are facets of the yang. Yet the yang is not everything. There are aspects of life that are irreducibly yin — the kinds of things that are hard to put into words but that instead must simply be experienced: music, painting, sculpture, dance, gardening, nature, manual labor, athletics, exercise, physicality, sensuality, breath, yoga, meditation, introspection, reflection, contemplation, reverence, awareness, perception, the senses, beauty, adornment, pleasure, relaxation, spontaneity, friendship, love.

These phenomena, these manifestations of yin, have their philosophies, too: Taoism, Buddhism, Epicureanism, aestheticism, gnosticism, organicism, naturalism, yogism, spiritualism, and more. These philosophies and practices can help me gain deep insights into the meaning of life.

The great challenge is to find unity in diversity, to achieve a harmony of opposites within myself, to attain a balance among the forces and qualities represented by the yin and the yang. This is not easy; indeed it is one of the supreme challenges of living. Yet I cannot climb that great mountain of wisdom if I am the hedgehog who knows only one big thing; instead, I must be the fox who knows many things and who has many ways of knowing. I must be open to experiencing life, to recognizing what I truly want — even if it appears to be at odds with the yang-like philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Next: Chapter 31: The Architecture of Happiness

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