XXVI. Does the Public Need You?

Hexagram 26. "The Taming Power of the Great"
Hexagram 26. “The Taming Power of the Great”

Here, we have a hexagram that serves almost as a mini-essay on the nature of a person who is sort of born to be a politician (in the best sense of the word, not the worst). Written multiple thousands of years ago, it’s something of a marvel that it seems so applicable to this day.

What is described here is a situation in which a person is called not to stay home and maintain the best home possible, but to rise up and answer the call to public service. This is not as simple a situation as it may seem at first glance, and requires three things: keeping it together, holding back from reckless action, and the ability to care and nourish for others. In order for these elements to be present, the person in question must be both level-headed and also have the backing of other people who already possess power.

Occasionally, this might mean a family connection...
Occasionally, this might mean a family connection…

For such a person, blessed by luck, blessed by those above, the heavens themselves demand an entry into public service. Such a person who thus acts in accordance with fate and the heavens can pretty much accomplish anything. First, however, there are many dangers and obstacles to be overcome. In the broadest sense and from the earliest stages, this person absolutely must engage in an active regimen of daily self-renewal. Good habits must be nurtured to the extent that they become second nature. Going forward, we are told, in the quiet moments, good habits maintain internal order and discipline. When action and tension grow and build, the personality that is cultivated through these positive practices will be sufficiently fortified to handle anything that comes along.

In the beginning, our budding politician will be ready and inclined to charge ahead, and suddenly the first obstacle will present itself. It must not be ignored. This is the initial test, and the politician must hold up for a minute, take a deep breath, and go into the center. This will avoid disaster, while plunging straight ahead into the obstacle will lead directly to it, making this public service career a short one indeed. 

Hard to say anything negative about this one.
Hard to say anything negative about this one.

This will undoubtedly not be the last obstacle. In fact, there will likely be many. In times when the challenge is unquestionably stronger than the politician, the decision becomes quite easy. The only option is to voluntarily abandon the desire to push forward, even for as long as the foreseeable future, in order to wait out the storm. As we know, all storms pass. With the right kind of awareness, many of these storms can be anticipated long before they arrive. Think of child-proofing a house – most people try to put the plastic plug covers over the outlets long before the little creature can stick her fingers in the slots. Then, there are more complicated issues that arise, the kind that require more complicated solutions than plug covers and cabinet latches. Sometimes, the issue is straight-up wild. The example given right in the text is that of a wild boar with tusks. Those tusks are dangerous. They can impale you. Your first instinct is going to be to do something about those tusks, but with a wild boar the right approach is more subtle and more difficult. You see, if the boar itself can be pacified or even domesticated, the tusks are no longer dangerous. If the wild boar is no longer angry and wild, he is not going to impale you. 

But storms always pass, and even when they do, action and reaction must be guarded and calculated. The politician, with the obstruction removed, may well find a strong wave forward on which to ride all the way in, but that doesn’t mean that danger is gone. In fact, it is often all around still. Even when riding this wave, our servant-leader must guard against even hints and potential for danger, must know what they are doing, and must know why. This requires a concrete goal or two beyond merely holding office or gaining power, and this is an important truth to remember.

In the end, though, should the politician navigate all of these troubles along the way, the danger itself will eventually dissipate. The path allowing unrestricted forward movement is blasted open before them, and, still having the backing of some of those others in power, there are no limits to success. Anything for the sake of the public good can be accomplished.

Did not happen to this guy, unfortunately.
Did not happen to this guy, unfortunately.

To any person for whom public service is a desire or a demand, the past is a bottomless resource that absolutely must be put to good use. It’s not just about memorizing the events and sequences of history, it’s about analyzing it, understanding it, applying it to the situations we see each and every day. Careful devotion to the wisdom of what has happened before will inevitably improve the character and strengthen the heart and fortitude of anyone who applies it, not just those destined for politics.


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