Thursday, 12 July 2007

Boston is a random red herring

Photo by Rosa Yoskovsky

I dreamed last night that I was moving out of a house; a family who had several dogs of various shapes and sizes, and seemed to be good friends of mine, were moving in. I was moving to Boston (a city I’ve never been to), and thought it would be great to live there because it was close to my friend Helen (who actually lives in Bristol).

I also dreamed that a real-life group of people I worked with thirty years ago were dismantling our old office because we were leaving – perhaps the business had folded, or maybe we had all quit. We had moved all the desks into the middle of the room, which was how it was when we’d started (not in real life, but in the dream).

Apart from some dodgy geography (Boston isn’t quite drop-in-for-a-cuppa distance from Bristol), there seems to be a theme of endings and beginnings, and friends.

Now then (as my father used to say, and probably still does), I believe that dreams, like the I Ching, can pick up on the subtle beginnings of things before they are solidly manifest. Both are a sort of early warning system, not necessarily of concrete events that will happen in the future, but of processes that are unfolding.

That’s why the I Ching often has a dreamlike quality, where things that make no sense at all in real life somehow seem perfectly natural. In other words, many of the images in the I Ching don’t stand up to the cold hard light of linear rational thought – but they are all the more powerful and information-laden for being surreal and ambiguous.

That’s also why scholars of the I Ching argue endlessly over what a particular line means. Not only does each individual word have many possible meanings, but having decided on a ‘translation’, there may still be a number of different interpretations of each line. And I believe it’s the diviner’s role to hold the full spectrum of potential meanings like an artist’s palette, and to craft an interpretation that is both accurate and useful for the inquirer at that juncture.

At any rate, having had not one but TWO vivid dreams on the same themes, I thought it would be good to get a second opinion, and threw the coins this morning. I got Hexagram 2, Line 1.

It’s always exciting to get one of the Primary Hexagrams, 1 or 2. Hexagram 2, KUN, signifies total yin, complete receptivity. It has resonances with the new moon and the Winter Solstice; it is the tomb and the womb, doorway to the other world. KUN is where the downswing of the pendulum turns to the upswing, the pause between outbreath and inbreath. It’s like that Mary Poppins story (for those who were fortunate enough to have actually read the original Mary Poppins stories) where the magic happens between the first stroke of midnight and the last.

The basic disposition of earth is female
The noble man carries everything with great generosity

So here we find encouragement to welcome, with good grace, everything that is coming. That’s the essence of yin.

My changing line was Line 1, which reads: “Treading carefully on hoarfrost; solid ice will come soon.”

Frost is a good image of yin: something delicate, that melts into nothing when you step on it. But when there is frost, you know that Winter – and real ice – is on the way.

This line is about being aware of the beginnings of things, so you can feel how they will develop. Wilhelm interprets this to mean we are being guided to note the first signs of decay. He says to "check them", but how can you "check" the coming of Winter? Perhaps a better translation would say to "prepare" for them.

What does it all mean? I’m no wiser. Something new is beginning, but I haven’t got the shape of it yet.

A friend said to me today that if she’d known what she was getting into, she probably wouldn’t have done most of the things she’s done in her life. That’s true of me as well; I can’t count the number of times I’ve said that if I’d known how an undertaking was going to develop, I’d never have begun it – and how happy I was that I didn’t know!

But carrying everything with generosity…that’s something to aspire to.

Still, I reckon Boston is probably a random red herring.

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