I'm not a big fan of absolute binary systems. I don't think things can be divided into black or white. I do like the concept of yin and yang however. I love the idea that within one extreme, at the height of one power, there is a tiny dot of it's opposite. And that the transition from one to the other isn't a line in the sand but a graceful curve. Each quality fades into the other.
I think the other thing I like about the yin yang idea is that the qualities aren't seen in opposition, but complimentary. It isn't the fight of light and dark, but how the light plays with the dark and how the shadows are formed.
There are a lot of areas in life that we have looked at in absolute binaries for many years, and are just starting to see in shades of gray. To take the most basic, one of the first things most children learn is that there are boys and girls. And society is beginning to acknowledge that the boy or girl absolute might not be accurate. Not only are traditionally assigned masculine and feminine traits not always exhibited by all boys and all girls, but we are seeing more and more people coming forward who don't feel that they fit as either a boy or a girl, but somewhere in between.
In the magical community, for a long time there was a black and white division. People talked about white magic as things that were helpful and healing and black magic as things that hurt or controlled. When I first started it was very much an either or thing, and it was very slanted toward black. If you talked to a random person, they would assure you that most Pagans were white workers, that we worked for the good of all and were healers. And yet, if you probed a bit, they would tell you that a good witch never did harm. Yes, NEVER. If you ever considered taking an action that would cause harm, even if it was for a greater cause or to protect a loved one, then you were no longer a white witch. Same for control or any number of other no-no's. By those standards I highly doubt the majority of witches were white...especially considering how many teens there were that were interested.
For a while, people talked about gray witches, and this concept still is used today. If I had to qualify myself, this is what I would consider myself. I dwell quite firmly in the shadows. More often, however, now you hear that 'there is no color to magic, it is neutral, what makes the difference is how you use it.” I do think this has some validity, but I also think it opens the door for all kinds of abuse. It becomes much easier to justify taking darker actions by saying you were doing it for a good reason. At the end of the day, it is you who has to live with the consequences, so you do what you can tolerate. Or you do something and live to regret it and it becomes a lesson of where the line is that you will no longer cross.
But to bring it back to yin and yang, I think that there is a lot of value in looking for that speck of other that is inside of us. If you consider yourself to be a thing, then explore the things that you don't consider yourself to be and really look for what qualities you might have inside of you.
Sometimes you end up coming full circle too. When I was younger, I got this crazy idea that I wanted to be a nurse. I really don't remember why I thought this was a good idea, but it was what I ended up telling my in-laws that I wanted to be when we first met. I had spent some time doing care-giving work, taking care of my great-grandmother. And while I loved her dearly, I hated the actual work.
I don't really consider myself a caregiver. I can (and do) care about people, but sick people trigger me in weird ways, and I spend way more time that I am comfortable with just keeping myself from freaking out, which means I don't really feel I am giving the other person my all. It makes me feel hollow and sort of inhuman, which I also don't like. And then I feel helpless. Because I may be able to help others, but there are limits on what I can do. I can't wave my wand and make pain or illness disappear (as much as I may wish I could).
And yet, there must be a part of me that wants to be a caregiver, because I keep finding myself in the position to care for others. And not just being forced into it, but offering to do things before I am asked, or asking if I can help knowing that if I just keep my mouth shut I won't get asked to help.
I don't know what the answer is yet, but I know it's in that tiny part of me that is the flip side of the majority. It is the dot in the middle of the swirl, and if I can just find it, I can see what it means to me.