What could be a more profound example of duality than life and death? What could illustrate more succinctly how duality works in our world? In order to die, you must first be alive. We would never know what death is unless we are alive, which gives us a comparison. Let us explore this splendid teaching tool and what it helps us to learn about duality in general.
First of all, this example helps us to understand how clear and distinct duality can be, even to our limited perception. This one, I believe is an example we can all understand. Either you are alive, or you are dead. It is hard to create any gray areas within this black and white example with our highly subjective perception. There are a lot of dualities we experience that aren't so cut and dry as life and death. Dualities such as right-wrong, or good-bad, have so much relativity between all of us that they become hard to distinguish as a universal measure.
You can't be both at the same time can you? You are still alive until you are dead. You may be close to death but until your breathing stops, your heart stops, and your brain stops working, you will still be alive. We may be on the verge of death, or dying, or getting close to death, but as long as you are still alive, you are not dead.
Because we are alive, we value alive-ness. We can perceive alive-ness because we are alive. Because we aren't dead and we have no tangible access to the dead, we really can't truly understand death. That leads us to be afraid of this unknown. But what if when our physical bodies die, we become part of a beautiful and wonderful existence in a non physical world?
With the concept of duality it is said that you can't fully understand one side of the dual nature without comparing and fully understanding the opposing side. What if it is equally as valuable to experience that non-physical world that death gives us, as it is to experience this physical world? Maybe we wouldn't fear death as we do now. What if we lived our life not being afraid to die, by knowing that this aspect of existence was just the other side of the same coin?
" Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides."
― Lao Tzu
The problem with the duality of life and death in this life is that we seemingly can't come back from the experience of death to cherish our life here on earth. This is where the concept of reincarnation is comforting. Duality doesn't stop with our life and death example.
Our entire existence in this world is run on duality. Why this basic concept of life isn't even mentioned in our education or upbringing or wherever is mindboggling to me. It helps to explain so much in our life! For me it explains how our opposing values are both integral aspects of a "whole". We can't have one side without the other.
Most all of our value based conflicts have their roots within this scenario. If you think about this in depth, our conflicts reflect our inabilities to understand the other side's value. Just as death is presently beyond most of our capabilities to understand, our inabilities to understand our opposites in this life reveal our lack of perception. We just need to expand our consciousness and recognize how this world really works in order to learn appreciation and gratitude for the life we are living.
"If we never experience the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing stimulates our appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness or desperation. In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse.” ― Anthon St. Maarten, Divine Living: The Essential Guide To Your True Destiny
Death is one of the most difficult of life's dualities to accept. Our culture has done a poor job of preparing us for its reality, as it has on the concept of duality. We have a long way to go to get caught up with the insight duality provides us.
It is through death that there is life. We were born. We will die. We were not alive before we were brought into this world. We are part of the never ending cycles. I have to believe in the continuum. Live until you die, as that is why we are here. Carry on.