Know the masculine by keeping to the feminine, and you will be the ravine of the world.
(Laozi 28; Ziporyn)
I return to this suggestion as something upon which to meditate because it seems so incredibly fertile in terms of bringing forth a sense of that way of being in the world that Laozi sees as facilitating both our personal flourishing and the amelioration of the world's woes.
We might immediately stumble at this apparently blatant gender preference (though in the context of millennia of male/yang sexism, it may seem merely corrective). But we need to understand that though the attributes assigned to each gender have a certain legitimacy in terms of biology, culture and political history, the true appeal is to a principle that transcends gender and is realizable in us all. We all possess attributes both 'feminine' and 'masculine', though obviously we favor them to different degrees.
(As an aside, I would like to here offer an opinion on the myth (to my thinking) that if women ruled the world, it would be a better and gentler place; history demonstrates otherwise. The fallacy consists in a failure to recognize that ruling is yang, and the moment anyone embraces it they have departed from the yin of the feminine. This is not to say that women should not rule — they have as much right as anyone else to wield power and dominate others. Also, admittedly, those women who do exercise political power have been obliged to (or naturally tend to) exhibit more yang than do the men who would otherwise sexistly exclude them. Thus, we have Hilary Clinton who votes for illegal, unnecessary war and the infrastructure of a police state (the patriot act), and vocally supports Zionist colonization and apartheid, just to name a few of her 'contributions' to the American political landscape.)
So, this is not really about men and women, though the attributes of masculinity and femininity provide a helpful metaphor when we do not take them too literally. Put simply, the masculine asserts itself, dominates, does stuff. The feminine yields, lets things unfold, does by not-doing, exercises a 'mysterious' transformative influence.
It is suggested that we give preference to the 'feminine'. In one sense, this is largely corrective; we tend toward the 'masculine', whatever our gender. The egoic-self is essentially yang — it asserts itself as a positive entity and requires the diminution of others to support that illusion. But more importantly, Being and existence are yang in relation to their source, Non-Being and non-existence, and it is this neglected (because feared) inescapable reality that needs to be privileged for corrective reasons and for reasons of authenticity (living life as it manifests).
Yet we know the masculine by the feminine. They mutually reveal each other, and neither is to be discarded. We do non-doing. I loses me. No-self is a self. This is the psychologically “sustainable whole.”
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