Dichotomy: Balance vs. gradients 


One day in the not-too-distant past, I was having lunch with my partner.  We were having one of our typical conversations–about human physiology, our practice, life, the universe, and everything.  You know, the usual.

We’re learning to speak each other’s special interest languages. For him, that means he’s learning to speak Functional Medicine; for me, that means I’m learning to speak Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The yin-yang symbol popped into my head.

Almost simultaneously, so did my brain’s own rendition of the biological cellular sodium-potassium pump.

(For the life of me, I can’t remember how we ended up talking about such a thing that would cause that to happen, but it’s not exactly out of left field for us.)

Staring into space, I had this vision of the yin-yang, with its two opposing elements usually merging together, suddenly begin to polarize.  This was overlayed by the sodium-potassium pump, working tirelessly to maintain a gradient between the inside of a body cell and the outside of that cell, the surrounding fluid in which it exists.  The fluid inside the cell must maintain more potassium, in comparison to the fluid outside the cell, which has relatively less potassium and more sodium.  That sodium-potassium pump makes this happen.

And I thought, how ironic…

To maintain a balance of yin and yang is crucial; tip those scales and you get disease and suffering.

To maintain an imbalance between sodium and potassium on the inside and outside of the cell is equally crucial to life.  Without that little pump nestled in the cell’s outer membrane, the potassium would leak out and the sodium would creep in, equalizing the two environments and merging them together into one, but the cell would die in the process.

The concept of health, the technical term for which is “homeostasis” is often defined as being in a state of balance.  But sometimes, an imbalance–or a gradient–is necessary.

Sometimes, to achieve imbalance is necessary to achieve balance.

That just seemed (and still seems) interesting to me.


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