Thursday, November 24, 2016

Advice from the Book of Changes on Recent Events


The Judgment

Shock. Success.
Thunder comes—crack, crack!
Afterward there is laughter and talk—ha, ha!
The shock terrifies for a hundred miles,
But he does not let the sacrificial spoon and chalice fall.

Something unexpected has shaken you. You had not prepared for it. Suddenly, your life seems in upheaval. You experience fear and panic. But once your initial reactions subside, you will recognize that the sudden turn of events is for the best. You have been caught by surprise, but if you hold yourself properly, something positive can and will emerge from the shake-up.

The important thing now is to stay calm and keep your wits about you. Take a closer look at the situation. It is possible that you have simply taken on too much. The shocking event may be a blessing in disguise: it gives you an opportunity to reassess your priorities and lessen some of your burdens. Perhaps you have drifted into an unsatisfying and unrewarding routine. The shocking event can awaken you from your lethargy and force you to change your plans. The disruption of your everyday life can invigorate you and give you a fresh outlook on life. It is like being splashed with cold water. It is unpleasant at first, but it stimulates the senses. After the shake-up, you suddenly see new possibilities. Although the change may be disturbing in the beginning, maintain your poise and approach the new situation with an open mind. You will come out of this series of events stronger, better, and happier.

The Book of Changes compares the situation you now face to thunder pealing while a person is performing a sacred ritual. The shock comes just as the person is ladling out the sacramental wine. But he is so imbued with seriousness and a sense of purpose that he does not spill a drop. In the same
way, you should consider the change as a test of your character. If you can maintain equanimity and composure in the face of outside upheaval, you are secure against whatever life can throw against you and you will always be able to spot the new potential in changed conditions. That is because the shock not only shakes you up; it also shakes up the world outside you. New possibilities are created out of the shards of the old. This is a key idea in the Book of Changes: Change—even sudden and startling change—is not only a hazard but an opportunity. People who let shocking events dictate their inner life will be disabled and mired in confusion. They are like people who are struck by lightning. But people who maintain balance in their inner life are quickly able to restore balance in their relations with the outside world. They can rise to the challenge and improve their lives in the process.

The Image

Repeated Thunder:
This is the image of Shock.
In fear and trembling,
The superior person examines himself
And sets his life in order.

Sudden change is like a wake-up call from God. It shocks you into considering whether you have been traveling down the wrong path, and it gives you a chance to change direction. Many shocking events are simply out of your control; there is no way you could have foreseen them or prepared for them. But some shocks occur because you have been unwilling to face facts. Perhaps you have convinced yourself that something you don’t want to happen could never happen, or perhaps you have been blindly pursuing an unwise or unhealthy way of life. Then one day the problems and fears you have neglected for so long suddenly catch up with you. You find that you have to confront them face-to-face. It is as if your unconscious self were giving you a not-so-gentle shove, forcing you to own up to your actions and asking you point-blank whether it isn’t time to change your life. When this happens, it is partly accidental, but it is also partly a function of the road you have traveled up to this point, for that path made the accident happen in a particular way and it gave the events a particular meaning and force.

In any case, whatever the causes, when the upheaval arrives, it is up to you to make the most of the situation and learn from it. Search your soul and reconsider your attitudes. Have you been living your life the way it should be lived? Have you been treating other people the way you should? As the text says, when the thunder comes, it is time to examine yourself and put your life in order. Change has shaken things up. Think creatively. Open your mind and your heart. If you can take advantage of this opportunity, something very beneficial will come of it.

[from Jack M. Balkin, The Laws of Change: I Ching and the Philosophy of Life, 2d ed. Sybil Creek Press 2009).

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