So I went to see Kaye, who does for me when I feel the need for some beautifying. I had in mind a bikini wax. But Kaye is an artist, and her art form is the human body. I not only got my bikini wax, but an eyebrow tidy and tint, and a pedicure.
Kaye doesn’t just attend to external beauty. She is a sort of therapist in her own right, like I imagine an old-fashioned barber was for men – the kind of barber that appeared in an episode of Northern Exposure, and got Chris to pull up his socks in the etiquette department. A conversation with Kaye always leaves me feeling more beautiful, more feminine, more happy that I’m a woman – that is, shinier on the inside as well as the outside.
That’s what Hexagram 22 is all about. It’s called BI, which is variously translated as Decoration, Adornment, Elegance. The character is made up of two parts: At the top is a flowering plant. Flowers are beautiful, but they don’t last long. Below that is a cowry shell; a shell is the exterior of something. Cowries have been almost universally used both as currency and for adornment.
Bi means brilliant, ornate, intricate, refined, elegant: something beautifully decorated. But a simple translation does not do justice to an implied meaning: in the China of the I Ching, adorning meant refining one’s social behaviour.
The key to this hexagram is whether the beautifying -- whether of one's appearance or one's behaviour -- is merely a superficial show or represents an expression of inner quality.
The hexagram is formed of Mountain over Fire. At its most positive, this is the clarity and consciousness of Fire on the inside, and the stillness and stability of Mountain on the outside. But a weakness of Fire is that it seeks ephemeral beauty, which is gaudy but insubstantial:
Where you will learn that packaging is all that heaven is…
We got the little black car, the little black dress
(from “Working It”, Henley/Simes/Lynch)
Hexagram 22 asks whether the adornment -- the packaging -- is merely an external ornamentation, or an expression of inner beauty.
During my early years as a therapist, I practised a form of facilitated meditation in which I often sat with someone for an hour or more in silence, day after day. I learned that if you just look at anyone for long enough, they become heart-wrenchingly beautiful. It’s a person’s uniqueness, their naked authenticity, that is the greatest beauty of all, and if you look long enough, you see through all the layers of packaging, right down to their gorgeous core.
If people were more aware of how beautiful they really are, this might be a different world.