Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Call Me Unpredictable

Path through wildflowers, Can Marroig

My Sweetheart and I saw Thea Gilmore performing in Crawley last weekend. I blush to say I had never heard of her before a week ago. She is a major talent, both as writer and performer.

Thea told a story: just after she had her baby, someone in the music industry asked her if she was now going to be ‘all luvved up’. She said that she sat her son on her lap, switched on the TV, and found Big Brother …and her response to that was to write her song “Teacher, Teacher”, in which she says:

Teacher, teacher, there is danger on the screen
Some little coven of the bigotry machine
Teacher, teacher, how’d they get to hold that sway?
Don’t want to see them come to represent this age
The dumb, the dumber and the princes of the page
They’ve got the money, now let’s give ‘em hell to pay

I’m gonna be raising the roof
I’m gonna be painting the town
I’m gonna be tearing those white flags down

I’m gonna be crossin’ that line
I’m gonna be biding my time
I’m gonna be kissing those walls goodbye

Thea Gilmore’s a gal with vision and attitude, and her songs express who she is. That’s a good example of Hexagram 25, WU WANG, which is formed of Heaven over Thunder: Action following the way of Heaven.

The character wang indicates falseness, untruth, deceit, vanity – but also reckless, foolhardy, rash, disordered, out of place. Wu means ‘no’ or ‘not’. Thus, the meaning of wu wang is ‘no error, not reckless’. It describes an authenticity without falsehood, a natural spontaneous process, like the weather, or plants growing – except that it’s conscious, in the sense of human consciousness.

Wilhelm translates wu wang as Innocence, which doesn’t really capture the meaning. Wu wang is complete truth, without any distortion of the will of Heaven, or of your own personal dao. This takes strength and skill; there is nothing childish or na├»ve about it.

The Mawangdui I Ching has this as wu meng: “without strain', 'without effort', i.e. acting spontaneously, in tune with the dao. If you are following your nature, you may be exerting yourself, but it won’t have the quality of effort -- of struggle -- that we experience when we are going against the grain.

Another meaning of wu wang is ‘not anticipated', or 'unexpected'. I had a conversation recently with someone who was caught in a dichotomy; he thought he had to make a choice between being ‘middle class’ or ‘bohemian’. Both of those ideas are scripts handed down by history; your own dao is entirely original and unpredictable. It’s not mainstream, and it’s not opposed to the mainstream either – it isn’t determined by any external source. When we are spontaneous, in the flow of who we really are, we surprise even ourselves!

Following your dao has great power. This is one of the few hexagrams that contains the entire invocation yuan heng li zhen, invoking all the directions, all the seasons, and all the virtues of Heaven.

It’s interesting that the ideograph for wang shows us the image of a woman walking away. In ancient China, a woman walking away was a symbol of falseness. But it’s just as important to ask what we should walk away from, in order to be true to what we are and what we value.

Wu wang – being without error – is essentially about following your dao, and creating your life.

If we don’t, we leave a hole in the world where our own authentic and original lives ought to be – and there are forces ready to slosh in and fill that hole.

If we don’t, the ‘bigotry machine’ and a stupified mediocrity may come to represent not only our age, but ourselves.



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