Like presidents before him, he occupies the root position of the Executive Branch of the US government tree. His position stands for the whole executive function, but is a part of a larger whole, whose genesis is the US Constitution. These United States are themselves a whole, comprising states, counties, localities, neighborhoods, and residencies such as ours where people gather on January 20 to witness an inauguration. Hierarchy, nested whole-parts, is a universal organizing principle.
Everyone knows about hierarchy. Few are familiar with its complement.
Complementarity is the second great universal organizing principle, bringing opposites together into one process. Like red states and blue states, the whole "tao" process is stirred by yin-yang opposites of dark and light, yielding and firm, female and male, receptivity and creativity. Each opposite includes and interpenetrates the other.
Neils Bohr, who proposed the wave-particle solution in quantum physics, adopted the yin-yang symbol for his coat-of-arms along with the inscription “Contraria sunt complementa,” opposites are complementary.
From the beginning of his quest, Obama has been the voice of complementarity amid the din of dualism. Black and white. Liberal and conservative. Listen and act. Be firm and be open. He embodies both-and, not either-or.
While other politicians have promised to “bridge the gap,” for Obama it is simply part of who he is. In her excellent NY Times page one piece, “From Books, New President Found Voice,” Michiko Kakutani links the power of voice, the love of learning and thinking, and the “quest to understand his roots.” This quest of a “divided child” for self-creation, lies at the “intersection between the private and the political, time present and time past,” themes elaborated by his inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander.
Self-creation at the intersection of opposites is emergent. From a polarized nation to a complementary one is a transformational step. This will be Obama’s theme this inaugural day. Bringing together while respecting differences. Finding synergies and creativities in new collaborations. Hope and hard work. You and me, working together.
This is the essence of networks: me and we, independence with interdependence.