As we stated on Monday, this second “half” of the I Ching concerns social relationships, and we’re starting with some of the most basic. In the previous hexagram, we were looking at influence, while here we go a step forward to union. Previously, we were looking at dating and courtship, while here we are looking at marriage – at least in its ideal sense.
Indeed, there are many lessons to be learned here – about the conditions of an ideal marriage itself and about what that ideal relationship represents as a metaphor all throughout our lives. This union, we are told, is not just permanent but self-renewing. It’s not “happily ever after” as in the end of a story, for that describes a sort of standstill that, in real life, can only lead to stagnation and decay. We’re talking about permanent duration that requires a constant renewal, day by day, year by year. It’s almost like breathing. In and out, in and out, again and again. Ending and beginning, always ongoing. This is the true state of anything in life that endures.
In a cosmic sense, the closest thing to an enduring and self-renewing marriage is the solar system. The sun and the planets (including Earth, of course) move within their orbits, according the the laws of gravity, and ultimately provide the seasons of our lives. If we act, in our lives, with this same sort of dedication and constancy – whether it is specifically marriage we are talking about or anything else we wish to last – we are able to give life not just to ourselves but to all the world.
As always, some caveats and details are filled in for us. Thinking that an enduring and solid marriage can be created instantly like a cup of coffee is a frivolous waste of thought. It won’t ever work. Anything that is to be lasting, self-renewing, and solid is going to take time and practice – but not only that, it requires being allowed to breathe, expand, and take on a life of its own before it can be granted the kind of form that we are seeking to keep enduring.
We may also encounter a scenario in which the power inherent to the situation is (uncommonly) less than the strength of our inherent character. We don’t want to act in such a way that will through things out of whack and put us out of bounds. Nevertheless, we are told that if we act with the kind of endurance we have been discussing – like that of the planets in orbit, quietly going round in their places – we may not fear any destructive excess resulting from our deliberate movements. Generally speaking, we can’t have both consistent endurance and remain at the mercy of changing emotions and fears resulting from what happens around us in a given day or year. We’ve got to be – OURSELVES – more constant and unwavering than that. This is not easy, not even for a wizard, but the alternative, as I know personally, will lead to instances of humiliation and consistently increased stress.
On the flip side (and there’s always a flip side, as we should know by now), the wrong kind of persistence and constancy will get us nowhere. Let’s say we’re trying to kill deer. If we sit and wait patiently, constantly, enduringly, do all the right things, but we’re doing all of this in a grove of trees where deer literally never go, we’re wasting our time. Pay attention to this even as we go about acting in the service of our endurance. Also, we must remember that in any partnership – without resorting to outdated gender stereotypes – a balance has to be struck between adhering to the traditional course upon which the duration of the union depends and the need to flexibly adjust action in accordance with significant requirements of the present situation.
As the dedicated fogeys above will remind us, we can’t hurry through life. We’ll lose composure and constancy and nothing we do will endure – from marriage to work to empire-building (half-kidding). Watch out, in any time of our lives, for people in power who are thus in a hurry. They are most dangerous.
Remember that none of this talk of constancy and duration should be confused with rigidity. Think of things like wind and storm. At first glance, wind and thunderstorms are anything but enduring. They come and go and move all around. Yet if you’ve ever watched a scientific graphical analysis of the wind, water, and temperature currents of the earth, you’ve seen that there are atmospheric forces behind all wind and all storms that always and consistently endure. That’s how we should be. Our hands and feet can move about like storms and winds, but we must be guided by these same basic underlying cosmic forces that provide true stability and true strength.
This post is the thirty-second of sixty-four in our Days of Change series exploring each hexagram of the ancient Chinese I Ching one by one. To sample others in this series – or go wild and read from the beginning – go here.