Happy Winter Solstice! Instead of reposting my annual reflection on our fear of the dark (which can be found here), I thought it might be better to throw the Yi Jing (I Ching), which I have not done for some time. Of course, it would have been more fun to be at Newgrange, but that wasn't in the cards this year...
I asked a very general question of the Yi, something appropriate, I thought, to the transformational quality of the day, when the pattern of our ebbing sunlight shifts and the days now get steadily longer. What will the return of the light bring? And, as usual, the Yi provided a fitting response, which, on my reading, suggests a generally favorable outlook for the coming months, as long as certain pitfalls are avoided: Duration (hexagram 32), with three moving lines, tending toward The Joyous (hexagram 58). The bottom line: "...the independence of the superior man is not based on rigidity and immobility of character. He always keeps abreast of the time and changes with it. What endures is the unswerving directive, the inner law of his being, which determines all his actions."
Full explication below the jump:
I came up with moving lines in the first, third and fifth place, which generate hexagram 58, The Joyous:
To begin, Duration seems quite apt for a solstice-like moment: it recognizes a tension between transformation and continuity:
It is not a state of rest, for mere standstill is regression. Duration is rather the self-contained and therefore self-renewing movement of an organized, firmly integrated whole, taking place in accordance with immutable laws and beginning anew at every ending.
This day marks an ending and a beginning: the ending of the retreat of the day and the beginning of the return of the light. And there are immutable laws (or, immutable under current cosmological conditions) involved. In terms of more personal implications, it seems to me to be speaking to an individual's social interactions, and the processes by which a person might flourish in a dynamic social context. The hexagram is associated with marriage, a social practice that obviously involves continuity, change, adaptation and flourishing. And if the inter-relationship of indivudual and group is managed carefully and conscientiously, good things will happen, as suggested by The Judgment:
Duration. Success. No Blame.
It furthers one of have somewhere to go.
This seems particularly pertinent to my own circumstances: next week I will go to New York City for a couple of days; in March I will go to Cambodia and Vietnam; and in April I will likely go to Yunnan. Something about this traveling will help me cultivate my social relationships and personal Integrity (I use "Integrity," or De, here in the Daoist manner of unique position in Way).
But there are some warnings. The oracle brought back three moving lines, all of which are cautionary in nature. The six in the first place tells me not to go too fast or attempt too much:
He who demands too much at once is acting precipitately, and because he attempts too much, he ends by succeeding in nothing.
The nine in the third place counsels not to be distracted by "...the moods of hope or fear aroused by the outer world..." Stay within yourself. And the nine in the fifth place lends a bit of Confucian advice: "...a man must always be flexible and adaptable and allow himself to be guided solely by what is duty requires of him at the moment."
The take-away in all of this seems to be: if we want to connect with something durable and lasting (one thinks of the vast expanse of Way here), we should focus first on our immediate social context, for there is where our most important duties will be found, and then move from there to the larger world around us. Going far afield, to Cambodia or Yunnan, should be a continuation of our daily cultivation of Integrity in social context. If we can do that: "Success."
The condition toward which this reading tends - hexagram 58, The Joyous - confirms the positive possibilities. The Judgment sums it up nicely:
The Joyous. Success.
Perseverance is favorable.
If you're doing that Duration thing, just keep doing it...
But it adds here a nice thought about intellectual life:
Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalizing force. It becomes so only through stimulating intercourse with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. In this way learning becomes many-sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.
I have a better sense now of how my travel plans fit into the picture of Duration. I need to share the experience and knowledge with friends and colleagues and students when I return. That will allow me to carry forward one of my social duties, as a teacher. And as I attend to that I need to integrate that sharing and learning with other aspects of my social life: my family and neighbors.
And so, the Yi Jing points the way forward, out of the dark, toward Duration and The Joyous....