“Shock brings success. Shock comes-oh, oh! Laughing words -ha, ha! The shock terrifies for a hundred miles and he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice.” I-Ching, Wilhelm Baynes trans.
I might be a spiritual person, in my way. But mostly I think things are OK in some inscrutable way that I don’t understand, and the biggest mystery is my response to things. A long, long, long time ago in a philosophy class, reading Aristotle, I read this, “Know yourself.” I was taking Greek at the time so I translated it and wrote it on a little slip of paper and taped it to the mirror in the bathroom I shared with my suitemate.
She had no idea. It was a secret message to me. Of course, at 19, I thought I well on the way to self-knowledge.
Ha ha ha ha. I actually DID know some stuff, but a lot of the stuff I had gotten right and forgot over time. OH well.
Sometime after I returned from China, I got an old copy of the I-Ching at a used bookstore. I don’t believe in trying to find out what the future holds. I think it’s dangerous and wrong. I was reading various Chinese novels in which the I-Ching plays an important part. I had also had an experience in China in which the I-Ching had told people not to allow foreigners into their home, a situation that resulted in my friend (with whom I was traveling on Hainan Island) having to find somewhere for she and her husband and me and my husband to sleep. No hotels back then…
In a lot of the books the I-Ching was used to tell the future, but mostly it was used to help someone see more clearly into a situation in which they’re already embroiled. It also had some lovely aphorisms (quoted in the novels), so I became curious. I found it was an amazing tool for developing self-knowledge and gaining instruction in those trapped-bird-in-a-house moments of life. One of my favorite is the Hexagram 43, Break-through. It really lays out the only way good can defeat evil,
“Finally, the best way to fight evil is to make energetic progress in the good.”
Last year sometime, I was reading something that referenced the I-Ching. I thought, “Ha, I’ll do a reading.”
I got 51, Shock, with no moving lines.
I thought, “What shock could there possibly be? I’m settled, finally. My brother’s situation is resolved (that had been a huge source of shock for a long time). I have a place to live and more stability than I’ve ever known. Hmmm….”
I didn’t forget it, though.
The hexagram is the character for thunder on top of the character for thunder. Shock is something drastic that you cannot change, thunder in the ground. Living in Southern California, thunder in the ground (earthquakes) was more common than thunder in the sky! And yes. The only way to deal with them was to enjoy them. Sometimes they were actually fun — like the rolling 7.1 that came up behind my friend and I as we were hiking one Easter afternoon. It was like standing on a rollercoaster that was the earth.
And so over the course of the months following my random I-Ching reading, the shock arrived. The advice in the lines is wise and true. In life’s innumerable shocks, it’s always a good idea to hold the spoon and chalice steady, it’s the only way the feelings of dread can be followed by joy.
As for divining the future? It could be that time does not exist. The featured photo is part of a painting I did several years before I ever saw Monte Vista or imagined returning to Colorado. But anyone who’s visited me here or who lives here, will recognize the scene, though the colors of my painting * aren’t quite true in the photo…
*For painting nerds, the painting is oil on an Ampersand Gessobord