The only constant is change, am I right, man?
Okay. So though it’s been accessible to us for a century or so, few in the western world know much about the I Ching, which translates to “Book of Changes”. It’s ancient, several thousand years old (though specific estimates vary), Chinese, and is generally classified as Taoist (even though it can be argued that its more strategic aspects are not entirely consistent with Taoist teachings on avoiding competition).
Unlike other eastern works, like The Art of War and the Baghavad Gita, it has not (yet) been popularly adapted to apply to western corporate business management, but this is actually surprising given the level to which the volume serves so many purposes for so many people. While skeptics could potentially dismiss it as a 200-page string of fortune cookie fortunes, it is otherwise considered a map of the cosmos, a user manual for human life, a guide to strategic success, and a tool for revealing the future and, more importantly, understanding the present.
The overall concept is just as simple as my opening line: everything is change. The book then takes a major step forward and attempts to almost scientifically classify every possible archetypal manifestation of the world’s constant change into 64 “hexagrams”—six-line symbols that represent each of the 64 attributes. The depiction is done by means of a binary system—solid lines and broken lines. Solid lines represent the light, the strong, and the creative sides of the universe; broken lines represent the dark, the humble, and the receptive sides of the universe. Between the six lines, the combination and sequential order of solid and broken form the hexagram. You’ve seen the “yin-yang” before, right?
It’s essentially a representation of dualistic cosmic harmony (AKA “Tao”)—equal parts light and dark, with all light containing some dark and all darkness containing some light—as a singular whole. The authors of the Book of Changes believed there were definitively 64 possible combinations of light and dark that make up the whole of existence. That’s what the book is about. An extremely simple, but more comprehensive primer can be found on Wikipedia, a full public domain translation is available for free here, and a proper (and quite beautiful) translation can be purchased here. If you find yourself interested in more facts and information and history, I recommend the exploration of any or all of those options.
For the last five years, in my capacity as wizard (which is to say my capacity as a completely unqualified non-scholar), I have been engaged in regular study of the I Ching. When one studies this book, the program continues until death, and there is no graduation. After five years, however, it is time for this wizard to take the classroom to the next level. Starting tomorrow, I will embark on a weekly journey through all 64 hexagrams, attempting to provide an image or narrative of each depicted aspect of change and attempting to do so in a way that is at least tangentially relatable to our daily reality. After all, they don’t call ancient wisdom texts “timeless” for nothing. Since I envision this as a project contained within 2013, which gives us fewer weeks than hexagrams, some special weeks will include a surprise bonus hexagram. Fun, right?
For the sake of clarity, I’ll reiterate the point: I am not qualified as a scholar or expert. I am not attempting to represent our weekly days of change as an authoritative translation of a sacred text; I only put forth that what follows is the independent interpretation of an ordinary business casual mystic. Even on that basic level, there is so much for us to explore.
After all, even fortune cookies can sometimes teach us something about our lives. Am I right, man?