East-West: Best of Both - Culture for the 21st Century.
The Tao of Physics
East and West are Complementary Opposites
The symbolism of Yin and Yang as explained in the philosophy of Taoism (Lao Tzu) and complementarism (Niels Behr) describe the universe as consisting of complementary but polar opposites - each needing the other to create a unique whole. For instance we have night and day, male and female, left brain and right brain. Likewise East and West are often perceived as polar but complementary opposites.
Today, in a technology driven world, East and West increasingly interact and intersect.
The work of prominent physicist such as Frededrick Capra, Niels Behr suggest that for mankind to evolve and know itself, a global culture based on the Best of Both East and West traditional values may be needed.
What is the emerging holistic culture reflected in traditional Eastern and Western values?
In this post I outline the values and expression of the Best of Both culture that is currently sweeping the globe.
21st Century Critical Skills. 4C's.
21st Century Values.
What are the values that best define the 21st century?
It is noted that East and West are associated with left and right brain development. Whereas Western culture developed along a left brain path, the East developed along a right brain path. Individuality, critical and linear thinking, being associated with Western culture and left brain functioning. whilst Eastern Culture being traditionally associated with right brain functioning that is group centered, holistic,spiritual and aesthetic.
The four C's are identified as 21st century values and critical skills to master. The need to be both a critical thinker associated with left brained functioning whilst creativity and cooperation are required to ensure optimal development and success within a technology and interdependent society.
- Critical Thinking.
- Creative Thinking.(Intuitive)
- Communication.(Verbal and technology)
- Co-operation (Inter-dependence).
Studies agree that the ability to think critically and creatively are essential due to the age of quickly changing technology that requires the ability to process and analyse data by making valid inferences and conclusions.
Creativity requires the ability to be intuitive, to listen to our inner voice in order to bring forth our inner talents and make accurate and correct decisions.
Communications - the ability to express our selves both verbally and through technology are essential 21st century skills,
Since we live in an interconnected world, we need to co-operate with each other in order to reach and advance goals.
Critical and creative thinking together create a whole brained thinker.
East-West Diet, Wellness and Healthcare.
The complementary relationship between East and West is most evident in the field of health and wellness which is today a sizable industry backed by scientific validation.
The appeal of integrative practices for many is the ability to benefit from the best of both western and eastern approaches to healthcare.
Awareness of an interdependent relationship in all things promotes a culture of wholeness in dietary awareness. By eating and staying healthy according to holistic principals, we become naturally balanced and stay healthy in accordance to our ideal weight and body type.
"A marriage of conventional Western medicine with other healing modalities, including complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), integrative medicine (IM) neither rejects conventional medicine nor uncritically embraces alternative therapies. Rather, IM can be described as a practice that "cherry picks" the best and scientifically supported therapies of both systems Source"
According to a Wikipedia report the forms of medical systems covered include :
- Whole medical systems such as homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, and ayurveda.
- Mind-body medicine such as meditation, prayer, mental healing, art therapy, music therapy, and dance therapy.
- Biologically based practices such as dietary supplements, herbal supplements, and scientifically unproven therapies such as shark cartilage.
- Manipulative and Body-Based Practices such as spinal manipulation (both chiropractic and osteopathic) and massage.
- Energy therapies such as qigong, reiki, therapeutic touch, and electromagnetic therapy.
The Western scientific methods of approaching health and disease is recommended when needing medical attention of a more serious nature such as surgery or dealing with a serious illness whist the Eastern medical practices such as acupuncture, reflexology, herbal remedies are used to promote wellness and treat problems from a systemic point of view.
East-West Culture: Healthcare
Whilst the Western approach to exercise is focused on a more scientific approach to fitness - for instance circuit training promotes muscle tone and strength on specific parts of our physical anatomy.
Holistic exercise and physical fitness practices has greatly influenced Western culture. Yoga, Tai Chi, and QiGong are seen as more than just exercise but also a lifestyle change due to its holistic approach of integrating mind, body and soul.
Today, the popularity of integrating the two styles are more widely accepted and becoming increasingly popular.
It is said that the way to a person’s heart is through the tummy. The sharing of meals always plays a central part to keeping family and community together. Through food we are able to bond with family, friends and community. We get to know about our way of life, our values how we identify ourselves, what makes us similar and different to others and to celebrate special occasions around meals.
Being part of a multicultural community or family has the advantage of being exposed to different types of cuisines and cooking styles. Meals revolve around individual preferences and a combination of foods rather than a preference for one type of cuisine. For instance some meals may be Asian such as Sushi, Chinese stir fry whilst others may be Western. For instance spaghetti bolognaise, Pizza, Hamburger, or perhaps a fusion dish or style might be selected on other days.
The rule of thumb being that one does not need to make a choice. We can enjoy both Eastern and Western meals and sometimes find ways to blend them harmoniously.
food that looks good, taste good and is of course always the ideal.
Between East and West: Spirituality.
Traditionally, the West followed a more structured path to spiritual growth with prayer being the way to connect with higher worlds - In the East meditation is traditionally believed to be the path to connect with the inner soul. Through prayer we connect to the divine through talking whilst we listen for divine guidance through meditation
A Times media cover entitled the Mindful revolution of February 2014 testifies to the trend of mindfulness sweeping the globe from fortune five hundred companies to the busy housewife
The acceptance that we live in an interdependent and interconnected universe is reflected in a greater tolerance for individualistic paths and respect of freedom of choice in spiritual matters.
Art and Design.
The principles of Western and Eastern aesthetics are commonly blended in modern design and aesthetics.
Whereas Western aesthetics focus on the subject applying principles of harmony, symmetry and balance. The Eastern aesthetics focus is on capturing the essence of the subject as well as the artist.
The artist attempts to capture the spirit of a subject through tone and atmosphere. Looking through the eyes of nature provides a spiritual engagement with the subject matter.
The movement that linked East and West was nonfigurative - Abstract Expressionism of the mid 20th century did much to break down barriers between East and West.
Take the apple computer for instance which was founded by the late Steve Jobs, who was highly influenced by Eastern philosophy and lifestyle.
The East-West aesthetic blend in apple's product design is reflected in products that are intuitive, streamlined, uncluttered, technologically complex yet visually pleasing,
The impressionist and post impressionist area of visual art aimed to blend the two forms of perception by aiming to capture the essence and form of the subject matter.
Music: Between East and West.
Music is considered an art form. Music has the power to transform us and to convey messages difficult to speak.
The value system of East and West influences the type of music produced and its appeal to different cultures.
The West with its individualistic culture has many different types of music that appeal to the taste of its audience. From Hip Hop, Country, Rock, Pop, Jazz.. the variety is very broad to cater for an a culture based on individualism.
Confucius believed that music should complement the cultural goals of the nation. Music is created with the goal of instilling a sense of collective harmony between mind, body and spirit.
Instruments such as the flute, qin and drums are used to create music that brings alignment with mind body and soul.
Today K Pop appeals to a wide pan Asian audience. – Western hip hop sung in Korean to synchronized choreography
East Meets West - Language.
Language is an indicator of our cultural heritage. There are as many languages as there are different cultures and countries.
As with the Western value of structure and rules, the Western language is phonetic based. It is much simpler than Eastern Languages because there are only twenty six letters in the alphabet whereas there are thousands of characters in the Eastern language – one needs to know at least three thousand characters in order to read basic texts.
China being a large country has many different regions each with their own dialect. The official dialect is Mandarin. Other languages from East Asian countries include Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese.
As with the Chinese value of context and holism, Chinese being a tonal language with one word meaning different things depending on the tone used.
The written language although complex is the same for all Chinese dialects so although China has many dialects, the written language is the same regardless of dialect. Writing is based on graphical and encoded characters – For Instance the word bright has both the son and the moon. The Chinese place great value in books and the written language.
With China becoming more influential in the world, many people are today learning Mandarin due to its potential for opening opportunities.
English is the accepted lingua franca of the West and the international language of Business.
A person that is fluent and conversant in both English and Mandarin will have a competitive edge in the 21st century.
Is the East and West Experiencing a Cultural Shift?
In his book, "the Easternization of The West" Colin Campbell an Oxford University professor provides a thematic account of cultural change and posits that the USA and Europe experienced a cultural shift from the 1960's to an increasingly Eastern world view. The reasons for this shift varies from the increased interaction between the two cultures through migration and military interventions to the Western world's bias towards a strictly scientific world-view leaving many to seek alternative paths to finding spiritual fulfillment.
Today the East has become much more materialistic in the pursuit of traditional Western values
Challenges to an Holistic Path
Today in a multicultural, technology driven consumer society where diverse communities intersect, the popularity of an holistic path as reflected in traditional Eastern and Western culture and values continues to grow amidst an historic singular pole either or preference where anything different is often rejected.
Insights of quantum physicist Niels Behr and Fredrick Capr suggest that in order for mankind to evolve and align to our true natures and live authentically, we need to possibly form a culture where the collective wisdoms of East and West are understood and integrated.
Looking at the bigger picture of how Eastern and Western values and culture have blended and integrated over time, an holistic value system unfolds.
The legacy of colonialism, separate development resulted in a single pole preference where historically the Western world dominated over much of the globe resulting in an imbalance between East and West.
For those that embrace a holistic mindset are forever challenged to bridge the divide between the hyphenated space between East and West which is also commonly referred to as a paradox - being part of both but belonging to neither.
It is said that a paradox is resolved when shared.
In the absence of a clearly defined holistic value system and path what is perhaps required is the sharing of the meaning East-West: Best of Both with a shared collective.
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