All About Yin & Yang

We're breaking down this fascinating philosophy
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We the Birds
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Our theme for February is the concept of Yin & Yang. We have always been fascinated by the notion that opposites attract and enhance each other's lives. I'm sure you have your own examples of how awesomely opposites can complement each other. We see this concept in action every day at WE THE BIRDS because Sarah and Natalie are such different forces, but they complement and balance each other out so beautifully.

Living in Asia, we've had lots of exposure to the Yin Yang concept. We honestly thought we understood what its all about with the simple explanation: "opposites attract." We've always been inspired by the notion, but we're realizing that this concept is so much more than that! It's actually a pretty complex and insanely interesting philosophy.

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. - Wikipedia

Let's break this down into more bite-sized explanations, shall we?

Defining Concepts of Yin Yang:

  • Yin Yang is the concept of duality forming a whole.
  • Neither Yin nor Yang is absolute. Nothing is completely Yin or completely Yang. Each aspect contains the beginning point for the other aspect. For example, day becomes night and then night becomes day. Yin and Yang are interdependent upon each other so that the definition of one requires the definition for the other to be complete.
  • Yin Yang is not static. The nature of Yin and Yang flows and changes with time. A simple example is thinking about how the day gradually flows into the night. However, the length of day and night are changing. As the earth ages, its spin is slowing causing the length of day and night to get longer. Day and night are not static.
  • Yin + Yang = a whole. One effect of this is: as one aspect increases the other decreases to maintain the overall balance of the whole.
  • In Daoism, everything in existence is yin or yang, or—more often—some combination of the two.

Notes from Sarah:

What I find most interesting about the Yin Yang philosophy, is that its not as simple as "opposites attract"— the philosophy goes further to explain that opposite forces actually do not exist without the other AND nothing is completely Yin or Yang. In addition, their presence enriches and enhances the other's existence.

My therapist has been drilling this concept into my head since I started seeing him 4 years ago. I'm in recovery for drug/alcohol addiction and therapy is a big part of my recovery program. He refers to this concept often when he explains that something is "a different side of the same coin." I'll admit, it has taken me yearssss to understand what he means. For a long time, I thought he meant that opposite extremes are [somehow] a representation of the same thing. This sounds a lot like nonsense to me since my basic understanding of opposites is that they are bi-polar, mutually-exclusive and by definition, NOT THE SAME. But I had an epiphany last year [thanks to Star Wars- detailed below] and realized that what he's really been talking about all this time is the Yin Yang theory. He's been trying to dismantle my extreme "black or white" thinking.

After much thought and lots of research on the subject, I now understand that in contrast to the Yin Yang philosophy, Western culture tends to view opposites as binary (thus having only two possible polar values, "good" or "bad"). This kind of thinking ends up causing major over-simplification and results in a person seeing things as either black OR white (essentially ignoring shades of gray). No doubt, I have been profoundly influenced by binary thinking for most of my life. I've only recently started to see the prison associated with my "black OR white" thinking. I now cognitively understand that our existence is not black OR white— but it is black AND white AND primarily made up of shades of gray. I'm slowly learning to accept that living "in the gray" may be more peaceful than living in the extremes of black or white.

[NERD RANT: My epiphany was spurred by a recent binge of Star Wars. We grew up with a father who loves the original trilogy, so I find myself watching Star Wars whenever its on TV. As a child, my limited understanding of the story is that the Jedi are "good" and the Sith are "bad" (thanks, dad, for this over-simplified explanation). When I was twelve, Episode I, II, III came out and I became fascinated by the story of how/why Anakin Skywalker turns to the "dark side." I started to realize that things were more complex than I had originally understood. First of all, I have a weird affinity for Anakin Skywalker (probably because Hayden Christiansen is a babe), but it honestly never made sense to me that the explanation for his turn to the dark side was simply that he "chose evil." To say that Anakin just turned his back on the Jedi to go the "dark side," is a gross oversimplification of what actually went down. I also couldn't buy that he is "all bad" (I mean, hello, his love for his mother, his love for Padmé, etc.). Second of all, I started to notice some things about the Jedi that are not necessarily "all good." With new eyes, I pondered this and mulled it over with my therapist. I now understand that neither the Jedi nor the Sith are meant to be defined by the labels "good" or "bad." They have both qualities. Mind. Blown. Black-or-white thinking dismantled. The Jedi and the Sith are a literal representation of the Yin & Yang of the Force.]

Notes from Natalie:

The Cherokee parable of the good wolf— I read it years ago and it has stuck with me.

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “my son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson though about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “the one that you feed.”

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We the Birds

Sisters, Sarah + Natalie Knowlton, are the founders of WE THE BIRDS — a lifestyle brand and luxury French macaron bakery. We grew up all over the world, moving over 17 times and living in many countries including: Singapore, Australia, Venezuela, Cambodia, Thailand, France and of course, the US of A.  Our personal style and global perspective is a reflection of our transient upbringing. 

Now based in Dallas, TX, we established WE THE BIRDS through a shared love of fashion, design, travel and French macarons. What started as a creative outlet for two sisters, has blossomed into a multi-faceted business. Sarah’s professional background (with industry experience in fashion, design, & photography) combined with Natalie’s culinary prowess and professional business experience sets us apart from our competitors and makes us a uniquely dynamic duo.

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