Have you ever heard of a Chinese based philosophy known as yin/yang? If you don't really know it, I'll start by posting the symbol for it...which I'm sure a lot of you have probably seen already.
The yin/yang philosophy is basically an exercise in balance. It's when seemingly opposite forces are linked together in a complementary manner. Examples of this include fire/ice, life/death, darkness/light, male/female, etc.
It is said that each side of the yin/yang symbol describes different things. The “yin”, for example is the side with the black background and white dot in the center of it, is characterized as slow, soft, cold, wet, and passive, while “yang” (the white background with the black dot) is fast, hard, hot, dry, and aggressive.
I guess the best way I can describe both yin and yang is this. Separate, they are direct opposites, and you would think that by putting them together, they would clash horribly. But this is where the balance aspect comes into play. Instead of working against each other, the clashing traits seem to blend well together in a way that takes two separate parts and welds them together into one perfectly balanced entity.
I suppose maybe that's where the phrase “opposites attract” comes from. And, I suppose it also answers the question as to how some couples who are completely different from each other can stay married for fifty plus years.
Of course, this isn't just limited to just matters of love. In life, I think that balance is key to almost everything in life. We all have a side that is considered good, and a side that is considered bad. Very few are completely evil, but very few are completely good. Most of us walk that tightrope every day, and for the most part, we all do a fairly good job balancing on that rope. It's the same deal with all personality traits. Sometimes we have a negative frame of mind, and other times we have a positive outlook. Sometimes we feel so angry that we might want to break stuff, and sometimes we feel so happy that we want to create stuff. And, sometimes we might want to be selfless, and other times we want to be selfish. It all happens to the best of us and the worse of us.
But, here's the thing with the yin/yang philosophy. It's okay if we all have all of these qualities within us, both in the good and bad columns (and, don't kid yourselves, we all have aspects of ourselves that we are either proud of, or ashamed of). I think that in some cases, the parts of our personalities that we consider to be bad can actually be considered to be a blessing in certain situations. For instance, some might see the desire to be self-centered to be an incredibly lousy and tacky quality to have...but there are situations in which putting yourself first can be a good thing...such as fleeing an abusive relationship. Or, another example could be this. Some might see the idea of violence against others as being a completely bad thing, but if one is in a situation where their life is in danger, wouldn't you want to have an entire arsenal of self-defense tricks up your sleeve so that you can get back home in one piece?
That's what today's blog topic is all about. Finding the ideal balance within ourselves to become the most well-rounded person we can be.
And, as it so happens, today's Sunday Jukebox entry follows this theme as well.
It's by a woman who was born and raised in the UK, and who has had the majority of her success in that crazy decade known as the 1990s.
One thing that you should probably know about this British R&B artist is that she is not the one-hit-wonder that many people assume she is. She may not have had much success outside of the one single in the United States, but in the United Kingdom, she released several singles between 1992 and 2003, and even had a song appearing on the official soundtrack to the 1996 film “Romeo + Juliet”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. And, while she hasn't had a song release in nearly ten years, one of her biggest hits happens to be the song that we are going to be looking at today...a song that best exhibits the yin/yang in us all.
How befitting that the accompanying music video happens to be in the contrasting colours of black and white.
SONG: You Gotta Be
ALBUM: I Ain't Movin'
DATE RELEASED: July 29, 1994
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS: #5
Yes, the song by Des'ree (born Desiree Annette Weeks) was her biggest smash single, reaching the Top 5 here in North America and the Top 10 in her native UK. But, the song is also one of power, determination, fight, and self-growth.
It's also a song that I have downloaded onto my iPod because I love the message the song presents.
This was a song that has been released three times, if you can believe it. The first time the song was released was in the summer of 1994. It was re-released in May 1995 following the single's popularity in the United States, and a remixed version was brought out in 1999 following its use in a Ford Focus commercial of all places.
Actually, now that I mention it, the song has been used in advertising quite often. It was the song that was most used during ads for PBS's children's programming line-up between 1999 and 2004. It was also used for promotions for “Good Morning America” in the mid-1990s, and it was used in a bank ad in Australia in the early 2000s.
The song was even nominated for “Best Female Video” at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Unfortunately, she lost to Madonna.
But, that's just life, I guess.
Besides, we're not going to talk about Des'ree too much. Instead, we're going to take a look at the song itself, and the deeper meaning that comes from it. After all, the song's chorus seems to be a series of contradictions of sorts...at least until the very end.
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know, all I know is love will save the day
Now, this chorus is one that appears to be very mish-mashed. I know what you're saying. How can she say that we have to be bad and bold, and then two lines down, we have to be cool and calm? Those aren't adjectives that seem to fit well together, are they?
Ah, but here's where the whole yin/yang situation comes into play. I think that some of the coolest people I have ever known are those who speak out against injustice, cruelty, and wrongs, but do it in such a way that they appear to be calm, cool, and collected. There are ways to speak out against things that make you angry without actually losing your cool.
I do it all the time right here in this blog. There have been several instances in which something has angered me enough that I have wanted to write about it in here...but of course, once I sit down in front of the computer screen, and type it all out, some of that anger subsides, and is replaced by a calmer, more thought-out argument.
That's not to say that I have lost some of my impulsiveness. I just find other ways to channel that energy. It's all about keeping that balance in check.
And, really, that's the whole point of “You Gotta Be”. Finding the balances within yourself to achieve the inner strength necessary to discover who you really are.
It's true! Des'ree even admitted it in Billboard Magazine in January 1995!
It's all about knowing how to handle all of the complex emotions that we all have inside ourselves, and finding the right way to showcase those emotions in the right situation.
And, those are lessons that I have had to learn the hard way.
I'll be brutally honest with you all. I was quite the emotional child growing up. I always took what people said about me way too seriously (and let's face it, this was the case well into my early twenties as well), and there were times in which I couldn't stop the tears from flowing, or the anger I felt bubbling over. I was a complete mess when I was in grade school, and it's only now that I see that my inability to control my emotions was more of a detriment than an aid. I know that sensitivity can be a great quality to have if you know how to use it, but sometimes sensitivity can be misunderstood as being wimpy, or weak. And, the way that I presented myself in grade school...well, I can see why some people seemed to have a field day with it.
By the time that I was a teenager, I learned that maybe dealing with crummy situations through tears, anger, and frustration was only going to get me so far. I had to learn to ignore the haters and focus my attention on positivity. I'm getting better and better at balancing that out now that I am in my thirties, but it's not exactly one hundred per cent perfect.
And, I think that's why I feel such a connection to Des'ree's song. I've been in situations which have really tested me emotionally, and sometimes I didn't exactly act accordingly in how to resolve those conflicts. Over time, I learned that I had to be bold in order to gain wisdom. I had to be tough in order to be stronger. I had to keep a cool head and stay calm in order to keep things into perspective and see better solutions to handling my problems.
And, I especially like the last part of the chorus. The part about how love will save the day. And, I honestly believe that to be true.
I feel as though love is really the only path we have to finding our way to eternal happiness, both within ourselves, and extending that love to other people. And, you'll notice that those people who have a lot of love to give, and are in possession of a lot of love are some of the most well-balanced, well-rounded individuals that you could ever have the pleasure of having in your life.
I know that there is only one chance to make a first impression with a lot of people, and there have admittedly been cases in which I have blown those first impressions with my emotional instability of yore. But, I've learned not to focus on the bad. All I can do is look ahead.
Really, isn't that all that any of us can do?