Last year my 12-year-old niece and I started a “reading club”—it’s an exclusive club, just the two of us. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s given me an interesting insight into her life and the things she thinks about. It’s also given me a chance to read some wonderful young-adult novels that I would never have known about otherwise.
Last summer three of the books we read were A Wrinkle in Time (which I had read when I was a teen-ager), Where the Mountain meets the Moon, and Tuck Everlasting, and an interesting theme emerged from these three very different books: an understanding of Taoist principles, in particular the yin-yang aspect of life.
What I realized was that I have a tendency to dream about and work for a life where there are no problems; a utopian vision of sunshine and happiness everlasting. And I don’t think I’m alone with this tendency. We dream about our relationships—our fairy-tales end with the couple riding off into the sunset, living “happily ever after.” Our politicians prey on this thinking, promising us that they will deliver the policies that will solve all of our problems. Many of us work hard all our lives, building a retirement fund that we imagine will finance living the life of our dreams, free of stress and hassle.
But these dreams always set us up for disappointment, because they are based on the flawed belief that there can be a situation with just one side of the yin-yang polarity—that we can have good without bad, happy without sad, love without grief, joy without heartbreak.
Reading these books left me with this piece of wisdom: everything is a mix of good and bad. Allow for that, embrace it. Quit your pursuit of that unattainable, nothing-but-happiness rainbow.
When my niece and I discussed A Wrinkle in Time, I mentioned that once again we were hearing the Taoist message. She said, “Mom and I went on a hike this morning and I asked her, ‘Do you like going up or down better?’ and she replied, ‘if you do one you’re going to have to do the other!’”