Zen Circle, Yin-Yang, Heyiya-if, Mu

The images

I made this image as a montage of several symbols which I think are closely related and express important interlinked ideas of life and the world.

The Zen Circle - a circle drawn in a single fast stroke by a human hand. The roundness and perfection of the circle in a single unthinking act shows great practice on the part of the artist however even the most perfect zen circle has a beginning and an end representing the transition from life to death. But nonetheless the circle goes around. And what is the circle without the space that it encompasses and the space which encompasses it? Inside the circle is nothingness, inside the circle is the universe, inside the circle is the magic of life and death.

Yin-Yang - the famous Taoist symbol of balance. Ursula Le Guin uses the Yin-Yang symbolism in her essay A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be. Yang: bright, dry, clear, strong, firm, active, aggressive, lineal, progressive, creative, expanding, advancing, hot. Yin: dark, wet, obscure, weak, yielding, passive, participatory, circular, cyclical, peaceful, nurturant, retreating, contracting, and cold. I chose to color this yin-yang as green and blue to correspond to the earch and sky elements which figure into the heyiya-if symbol.

Heyiya-if - the double spiral symbol which is so important to the fictional Kesh people of Ursula Le Guin's Always Coming Home. One arm represents the living world, the earth, home life, the concrete world, mammals. The other arm represents the world of the dead, the sky, spiritual life, the abstract world, birds. The two arms come ever closer but they never actually meet. The center is the hinge. the hinge is a magical place. It is the transition between life and death, between earth and sky, between knowing and not knowing. The two arms are always coming together, always coming closer, always coming home.

Mu - taken from a japanese tea ceremony scroll this caligraphy figure is the chinese character Mu. Mu is a Zen koan. Mu is the nothingness that is the universe. Mu is the lack of self that is shered by all things. Mu unasks questions. In the hinge of the heyiya-if there is Mu.

The tattoo

I would like to get this image tattooed on my upper left arm. I would want the roughness of the image above smoothed out by an artist. I'm looking for someone that can take the ideas and images presented here and take infinite artistic liberties with color and composition and make me something cool that I wouldn't mind wearing for the next 60-70 years or so. Once I get the tattoo I'll post pictures of it here in this spot.

Wow. Someone beat me to the punch. Lori was inspired by this web page and she went out and got half of the design done on her own arm!

At least one more person has taken this idea and run with it in a new and interesting direction. Here's Cathy's ink.

If anyone else draws inspiration from this page, please let me know and send pics for me to post!

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Copyright 1999, Zachary Miller (zach@chambana.net)

Last modified: Tue May 30 23:19:17 CDT 2006