Consider the Taoist* symbol below. The yin-yang.
You likely haven’t thought about the yin-yang much since middle school. I know I hadn’t.
It was cool to doodle it on the pages of your notebook, along with the peace sign (or Mercedes logo by accident) or that weird graffiti “S” that was oh-so-edgy.
This kind of quotidian exposure to the yin-yang renders it almost meaningless.
The Meaning Of the Symbolism
For Taoists, reality is a composite of two opposing forces: Order and Chaos.
The yin-yang is a circle composed of two serpents placed head to tail. Chaos (Yin), the black snake, has a white dot on its head. Order (Yang), the white serpent, is white and has a black dot on its head.
The black side of Chaos is not pure chaos, and neither is the white side pure Order. Order and Chaos are fluid and forever at odds with one another. They are always present within each other.
The Chaos of a forest fire eventually subsides and transmutes to Order, as a new forest grows from the ashes of the old.
The Order of beautifully constructed architectural marvel eventually succumbs to the disarray of Chaos as decades or centuries pass.
This interplay between Order and Chaos ensures that nothing stays the same.
Order and Chaos are neither good nor bad.
An imbalance in excess Order, the known and status quo, leads to fascist regimes like the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge. There’s a rule for everything, alles in Ordnung, and non-compliance is destroyed. But just the right amount of Order led to the agricultural revolution, towns and cities, and civilization.
Too much Chaos, the unknown and new, inhibits progress and turns a peaceful protest into a destructive riot. Chaos is nature lashing out. However, Chaos is also a catalyst for positive change. Chaos is the wellspring of ideas and creativity.
The Middle Path
This symbolic duality of Order and Chaos is understood by many. What I didn’t think about until recently, though, was that thin border between the yin and the yang.
The thin border between Order and Chaos is where we strive to exist. This path is what enables continual progress in our lives.
Progress is only made when Order keeps destruction at bay through stability and Chaos introduces a different, better way of doing.
We take corrective actions to bring Chaos to heel with the systemic application of Order. While life often provides plenty of Chaos, sometimes we need to create our own to combat the dullness of the Order in our lives and shake things up a bit.
How This Relates to Financial Independence
Financial independence is the middle path between Order and Chaos. It empowers you to add some spice to your life if you want it. It enables you to bring order to a previously chaotic life.
One person uses the established advice of the FIRE movement to bring more Order to their lives. They want to escape the rat race, be financially independent and take control of their lives. They want to be able to weather the unexpected emergencies life throws our way like unemployment and medical issues.
Another person uses FI to introduce more Chaos into their lives. Their 9-5 cubicle drudgery has left life flavorless and lacking. They want to reach FI to travel around the world and continuously meet with and embrace the unknown.
Whether your life is currently orderly or chaotic, use the principles of the FIRE movement. Use them to course-correct when you wander off the middle path of balance and harmony.
What do you need more of in your life, Order or Chaos? How are the principles of FIRE going to help you achieve balance?
*I typically follow Stoicism more closely, but I’ll take from other philosophies when I find it helpful.