Saturday, March 08, 2008

Tilting the Balance of Darkness and Light

Since Good Friday and Easter are almost upon us, and since they coincide with the Vernal Equinox, I decided it would be good to create a Good Friday liturgy based around the idea of the change in balance from darkness to light mirroring the movement of the season.

So here's my little icon to commemorate the concept. Does this speak to you in any way?


Pam Hogeweide said...

this would make a nice tattoo.

Kieran Conroy said...

I suppose I'm just a little cautious of using another religion's symbol to represent part of the Christian message, especially if it might seem alien or disrespectful to its present followers. Ying-Yang is about more than just good and evil, but the many balanced/often complementary forces (male/female, hot/cold, sky/earth) that make up our world.

I'm just troubled by the insinuation that this ancient Chinese/Daoist symbol is JUST about good/evil, and that the cross fixed/replaced all of its meanings. It might seem simplistic, or even offensive to someone of that tradition, to appropriate their symbol and make it speak our message.

It could bring up some interesting dialogs too- reminding us that, even in our zeal for good there can lurk the potential for evil, and that even the "evil" person is redeemable. This is actually closer to the complexity of the Daoist view. It might remind us that, even if one accepts the Christian hope, there is still the potential for both mistakes and surprising redemptions in the present order- requiring some of that humility and patient discernment often urged by Daoism.
At the same time, the Christian message does challenge the idea evil/suffering will always be a constant in this world. But we have to, I feel face the fact that we can cause it as well as heal it, as history has shown.

I'm not saying its automatically a problem- but it does raise some complicated issues and potential misunderstandings. Wonder if a more neutral, nature-based or more Christian image would be a little safer.

Also wouldn't want it to look like we're personally facing off against Chinese religions. :P Though I know the Ying-Yang has become a popular symbol too as of late.

Kieran Conroy said...

That said, the change from darkness to light, mirrored in the natural world is certainly a powerful one. In the ancient world, when one's life literally hung on the seasons (well, it does still in many parts of the world, actually), people were deeply concerned about these things.

I see discussions of darkness and light, inter-religious complexities aside, as also opening talk of the wider meanings of the cross. About sin/salvation, but not JUST sin- a promise of hope on many levels, of a more just world here and hereafter, of an end to death, disease and pain, of a time when ever tear will be wiped away. Of a hope able to redeem, not just our souls or the future, but also our present darknesses, a hope that gives us the strength to both recognize bring God's light into this world wherever we find ourselves.

cern said...

I think the black half being distorted out of shape results in the image presenting things OUT of balance. Thinking of the many associations with the Yin Yang symbol, that balance is an essential part of leading a good life. The cross imposed over the image suggests that the Christian faith leads to an imbalance that could be very negative. For me it conjures up concepts of missionaries out to Christianize communities around the world, squeezing out their balanced cultural history and replacing it with a warped brand of Christianity that is anything BUT in balance and harmony.

If the Yin Yang weren't distorted the message would be quite the reverse. Of course the cross would have to be very carefully positioned.... I'd try to make the ends of the cross (top and bottom) line up directly with the small circles in each half. Or even better, turn the Yin Yang through 90 degrees and have the arms of the cross terminate in the circles. :)



Pastor Phil said...

Yep, I could see it on your back Pam.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Kieran,

Evan and I had some of these thoughts in discussion last night.

First there is the necessity of not communicating things in militaristic terms. Then there is the issue that the dark/light motif does not always represent a rather simplistic Christian view of good vs. evil like Spy vs. Spy.

Of course considering these things I would also have to come up with a similar logo for the Autumnal Equinox, and have that also represent something vibrant in the Christian tradition.

The cross in the center of the imbalancing I think does speak openly to fact that Christianity has been both a force for good (light), and for evil (imbalance) through human history, and I think also that is a worthy discussion.

In a more natural manner I do think that there is something to be said about imbalance as an experience of life itself. We live on a wobbling dust ball, which spins sometimes in cataclysmic rotations, and although there is beauty in the seasons, there is tragedy too.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Mike,

I do think that Christianity bringing imbalance is a part of the dialogue, which needs to be addressed. Yet I think also that the seasonal change from more dark less light to more light less dark presents us with the picture that life is not truly balanced perfectly, but from season to season it is setting us off balance, and requiring more from us than we can handle.

I want to create a similar imbalance logo for the opposite season, but I am not sure what that would look like yet.

The cross fits this because The Passion and the Spring Equinox are always positioned together. The Autumnal Equinox does not have this same Holy Day mixture, and does not as easily fall into place. (Hmmmm...sorry for the inadvertently bad pun.)

Of course, the logo could not be presented simply as it is without, discussion points, and challenging thoughts like this being placed alongside it.

Look what wonderful dialogue it has already created! ;-)

Kieran Conroy said...

*Nods* Sounds like you've already been thinking this out carefully (not that I expected any differently! :)).

Agreed on all points... I'm not clear Christianity's view of evil is necessarily simplistic either, though it can sometimes be cast in that way. It might be a good grounds for practice in deepening our awareness of our own tradition, AND in dialoging between faiths- recognizing the complexity of this other system and how it critiques us, even as we affirm some of the great hopes Christianity has in unique ways.

Daoism, and many ancient religions focus on balancing and harmonious management of the negative forces that threaten our lives and well beings, and the cyclical realities we have to deal with in this world (history indeed repeats!). Not all, however give a FINAL hope of liberation (although many do, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism in its later years, influencing all the Abrahamic). This seems to offer Christians great hope for the long-term... but perhaps it makes it easier for us to get a little out of balance while we wait!

Your idea of two equinox's is interesting, though I agree challenging given the lack of correspondence. Christianity is hard there, in that its darkest and brightest historical days happen in the same week! Still, the idea of reflecting on our own calender in conversation with the earth's natural rhythms and their meanings to many peoples is an interesting one. Reminds us we still have a planet and a church to care for while we wait in hope for Jesus' return.

On the issue of a critique, it might be great to reflect on the decree of Theodosias who, a few decades after Constantine formally turned Christianity's tolerance into a formal intolerance of religious diversity; what might happen when we're so sure "good" has come to power that it can be wielded like a club:

"It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our Clemency and Moderation, should continue in the profession of that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it hath been preserved by faithful traditions... According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one deity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others since, in our judgement, they are foolish madmen, we decree that they should be branded with the ignominious title of heretics, and shall not presume... the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of the divine condemnation, and in the second the punishment which our authority, in accordance with the will of heaven, shall decide to inflict.
-Theodosian Code 16.1.2, quoted
from Bryan Stone'sEvangelism
After Christendom

Kieran Conroy said...

Wikipedia has a list of all the fall Equinox holidays... also looks at Mabon, which does fall on the equinox, but is apparently of questionable historical veracity.

Still one might use the time to begin to reflect on the various ways our own culture, and many other traditions prepare for the darker months, various holidays of thanksgiving and harvest. And perhaps a look at the times when darkness has seemed to get the "upper hand" in our own lives, periods of doubt, tragedy or loss of meaning and hope. Definitely something anyone's faith journey has to deal with at various points.

Interestingly, unlike the Summer and Winter Solstices, the Equinoxes happen all over the world at the same time. Nice moment to think globally too, in various ways.

I like your idea, if you just decide to go with this as a stand alone of having a few questions/thoughts with it. Would hopefully avoid some confusions (and hopefully inspire enough questions to make for an interesting conversation!).

Pastor Phil said...

Wow Kieran,

Mike some thoughts here on the orientation of the yinyang.

Thanks for a great comment on balance, Christianity's historical tendency toward aggressively mandated goodness.

At the following webpage there is a great page on the origins and variations of the tao design.

I am not sure of the accuracy of this, but it is a nicely done page.

As you will notice toward the bottom of the page there is an orientation of the yinyang symbol for each of the seasons, and the orientation I used for this logo is from the Spring - Young Yang, and so is necessary to use during the Vernal Equinox - methinks.

Anonymous said...

The image is well done but as a Christian with more than a little eastern influence in my background I challenge the direct equation of yin and yang with good and evil.

I have said many times elsewhere that the equal and opposite of one evil is generally an equal an opposite evil. Good is found in the balance. Evil is found in imbalance, in off centering your life.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Matt,

You'll notice I've spoken to that issue in some of the discussion above.

I am working off the assumption that life is often imbalanced, and that the changing seasons often cataclysmically illustrate this fact for us.

The cross is superimposed upon the wavering balance symbolically to represent a hope for restorative balance, and perhaps as a discussion point to consider whether Christianity has been a positive or negative influence in this respect historically.

This is not to say that the issue of good and evil may not also be an addressable issue here.

Anonymous said...

Hi all--
Great discussion! Wanted to throw in a link to a blogger on the site I host (Virtual Tea House). Bill Ellis is an Episcopal priest--and writes interesting posts. Here's his most recent one on 'What Color is God?'

Love to have you all come visit for a cup of virtual tea!

Beth (aka Myrabeth)