Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Absolute Zero and its Impact in the Yin and Yang

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To the best of our knowledge, the coldest temperature a physical object can reach is 0 degrees K(Kelvin), which is approximatly -273 degrees C(Calvin), and is called Absolute Zero.  Today, this temperature is important because of the laws of thermodynamics and super conductors, and even Quantum Mechanics.

So, if you believe in absolutes, you have half confirmation of your beliefs.  There is an absolute Zero ... cold is defined.  

What is Hot?  

So, not being able to say what hot is, what is the opposite of Cold?  Get the picture?  

Western science has in uncountable ways, with the introduction of quantum mechanics, destroyed the concept of measurably in the physical world, and with it the concept of absolute differences, such as Hot and Cold, and even Liquid and Solid ....

Taoism - There is much debate and dogmatic belief about the origins and mean of Taoism. Yet, I will relate that which has to do with my topic, that there is no absolute hot, or the problem with Yingang in teaching martial arts in the west.

First off, Taoism was founded somewhere between 604-517 BC by a legendary figure Lao Tzu, and as the legend goes, according to Kenneth Boa in Cults, World Religions and You, "as he was leaving the civilized world, a gatekeeper convinced him to stop and write down his philosophy." So he did.  5000 Characters. It is know as The Classic of the Way and its Power.

There are a few concepts that are very important for martial artists that can be found in Taoism.  

First, it is the way or path to the universal creative power that is the universe.  This is a pantheistic view of the universe, so right off, if you are Christian, this will not, and can not work for you.  

A second point, which most martial arts schools in the west would have to ignore if they teach this philosophy, is that in its original form, Taoism "taught that men should avoid aggressiveness and competition," again according to Kenneth Boa.  No tournaments, no definitions of success based of comparisons to others, no goals that require action against others in any form.  

When the symbol is rotated, all things become one at the center.  That is supposed to demonstrate that the universe is one.  I personally see spots.

Then there is the traditional view of the yin and yang (the center of Taoism), which is conflict between Yang and Yin that ends in perfect balance, which is harmony with the universe.  

Some of the things that are in conflict, that end in perfect balance are things like Hot and Cold.  Except they are not opposites in the real world, not in perfect balance and not in harmony with the universe. 2500 years ago, that was a reasonable philosophy, but now it is not.  We know more about the universe than we once did.

There are many examples of where this philosophy breaks down.  Magnetic monopoles, where, in visible nature, there is always a positive and negative magnetic pole.  Not so in the quantum scale of things.  

Then there is electrical current.  Positive and Negative, with current flowing from negative to positive.  Except the direction of flow was an accident of misunderstanding; and current does not flow, holes do.  Physics has come a long long way.

We, as martial artist of the west have a couple of things we can do to still use the yin and yang, so we can call ourselves traditional.

1) We can ignore the truth. 

2) You can use it to demonstrate contrast, rather than absolutes, though you are way outside of Tao if you do that.  Yet, if you are a Christian, that actually works.

3) You can follow one of the many popular versions which have nothing to do with Taoism of old, or even one of the mystical versions that comprise new age Taoism.  According to Boa, though, before the rise of Red China, these versions of Taoism were "so decadent" they started to lose ground.

I have met many master belts in karate and kung fu who use the yin and yang to bolster their claim that they are traditional instructors.  They use this claim to support all manner of training and philosophy. I have met an instructor who claimed one faith, and yet said, when we were at Sholin in China, "you must worship they way they worship to understand them." Really?  I have issues with worshiping things made by man.  Wood and metal do not inspire me all that much.

How you approach the Spirit part of Mind, Body and Spirit must be based on something real.  In the Martial Arts, integrity is everything.  

I found God while training, and I found him because I discovered my own shortcomings and failings. I wrote about that journey in "Diving into the Unknown," if you want to read about it.

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