One morning last week, I was sitting eating my breakfast at the dining table, looking at the flower that my son received from his graduation ceremony the evening before. It was a red Gerbera, with a long stem and fine petals. The night before, I had hastily found a container to put it in as we got home. But at that present moment of observing the flower, I realized that the container, rather low and broad, did not hold or support the Gerbera at all. What this flower being needed was a long, slim vessel. So, right after my breakfast I went to look for one and I imagined I found the right one to complement it. This got me wondering about the word "complement."
The noun "complement" in English comes from French, referring to "means of completing; that which completes; what is needed to complete or fill up." As a verb it means to "make complete." If one were to begin an internet search with the word "complementary," we get suggestions like "complementary colors," "complementary angles" and "complementary medicine."
Looking at the picture above, the color wheel, we see a chart for complementary colors used by artists and graphic designers to create contrasts that catch the eye, as well as the attention. In the middle are the 3 primary colors and when we want to find the complementary color for let's say red, we add blue and yellow together and we get green. These 2 colors are complementary to each other. The outer circle shows us the complementary colors in opposition to each other in different shades of the primary and secondary mixes. This color concept is really about how one color enhances the other.
Then there are complementary angles referring to 2 angles that add up to 90°, which is a right angle. This is basic geometry we learned in math class. For example, if an angle is 30°, then the other will be 60°, adding the sum total to 90°. In this case, the 2 angles complete each other.
To have a complement is to be made whole and completed. I like this description to explain Complementary Medicine. This term was created in the 1980s to describe medical and therapeutic practices that did not/were not allowed to be fitted into conventional medicine. Chinese Medicine has landed in this category in the West, as it did not fit into the model created by the dominant allopathic medicine. To be very honest, I find that it is rightfully so. When I understand the word complementary as being "made whole," I am proud to say I practice this form of medicine. Then, my focus is to help a person be/feel whole and well; not cut up into pieces and detached from her/himself. For me the focus of medicine is the person, the individual and what their body-mind needs to be healthy. In feeling healthy and thriving, the individual feels empowered; thus, being able to live well and make healthy life-style choices for her/himself.
As I go back to the example of my son's Gerbera, I observe the being as it is and try to understand what it needs to thrive in its environment. I help it by providing the appropriate container and the nourishment, that it may feel safe, nurtured and supported enough to grow for the time that it is with me. As we know, we are not here in our present state or situation forever; life is finite, we should cherish the time we have been given and have gratitude for the experience. As such, I also know that at one point this being will have to go to its next stage of life and I, who have provided this container must learn to let go, to give this being the possibility to move on. In doing so, I am a complement to that being.
Image Color Wheel by vector portal-pixel77
Image Angle by bjus