“Every human being is a mixture of light and darkness, trust and fear, love and hate.” – Jean Vanier. It is easy to think of things as binaries. Either big or small, good or bad, light or dark. It’s nice to have a solid answer. We do this with everything from people, foods, places to even horse breeds. We like having a way to categorize things, a kind of box to put them into for easy sorting. However, one look at the real world will prove that this is hardly ever the case. Most everything we will ever come in contact with or know of will exist on a spectrum rather than as a binary.
There’s some beauty to that. How boring would it be if everything were just black or white? Our senses would be fairly useless and primitive and our characters would need no judgment. It would be too simple to exist as either good or bad. There wouldn’t be much point to living a life that was pre-determined to be one of only two types.
Duality in Horse Breeds
We can see the presence of spectrums in nature ranging from those of the wavelength of light to appearances between people. I found a particularly captivating individual who embodied this while pursuing running horse pictures in North Dakota. I initially intended to study the Nokota horse breed and creating original art for sale but then found the stallion I captured here. This stunning animal donned a roan coat, which was made up of white and black hairs that swirled across his body. In some parts of his body, one of the two colors would dominate. On other parts, the other color would dapple the animal. Overall, their mingling gave rise to a very unique coat pattern that truly made this horse the center of my attention. I stopped calculating how to get the perfect running horse pictures and just observed him.
His face was dark and shadowed, giving him a broody expression. From the neck down, the inkiness of his coat slowly melted away as it fell onto his torso and legs. He really did embody a kind of greyscale. He was both light and dark. Neither side of this animal defined him over the other, but rather their pattern defined him as a whole. I finally decided that his stagnant portrait would do him more justice than a running horse picture and more justice to my original art for sale.
The Duality of Man
This made me think about how we all have our own dark and our light sides and the different types of people. No one is inherently good or bad. We exist in numerous variations of the two ends of the spectrum. Most of us found a kind of balance as we grew up and developed our value systems. What we value, what we believe to be right and what we want, all shaped us in different ways.
What we define as character largely influences the way we see the world and the people who inhabit it. The categories that we rely on to judge people are man-made constructs that help us navigate our interactions. The reality of the matter is that people’s characteristics bleed into each other. When we think of someone as evil, it’s easy to assume that everything they do will be malicious and ill-willed. Similarly, we think that a good person will always be sweet and selfless in their actions. It’s only when these people act out of their prescribed roles do we stop to ask why they would do so. Weren’t they supposed to be a good person or a bad person? It’s unpleasant to have our sorting boxes leak and make us work harder at assessing people in our lives.
Yin and Yang
Even if you haven’t considered this concept before, you’ve likely seen its representative symbol. Ancient Chinese philosophy adopted the concept of dualism much before I stumbled upon it while observing horse breeds. This concept essentially describes how forces in the world that may seem to be opposites are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent. Yin represents the darkness while Yang represents the light. Both types of forces push into each and merge to create a complete circle. But there a spot of darkness in the light and vice versa. There is not a clean section for each side.
By this philosophy, you can’t have one without the other. You need the darkness to see the light, the silence to hear the noise and the evil to know the good. You can see either force manifests more in some places than the other, but they both always find a way to balance out.