Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Crossing the great (muddy) waters

Womad 2007, Charlton Park
I’ve just returned from four days at WOMAD, a festival of world music and dance. Thousands of people braved knee-deep mud to celebrate music and dance from countries and cultures all over the world.

Unpredicted torrential rain made the physical conditions of the festival extremely difficult. Nevertheless, it was a joyous gathering, and a beautiful example of Hexagram 13, TONG REN, which is formed of Heaven over Fire.

Tong means together: to come together, gather together, meet; agreement, harmony, concord; or comrade, colleague.

Ren is people, or person.

Tong Ren is people uniting to become a cohesive, coherent group. This is the hexagram of society and the community, in which people are equal. It’s about understanding the intrinsic qualities of things and organizing them for the benefit of all, rather than for personal gain.

It’s variously translated as Similar People, Fellowship with Men, Like-Minded Persons, Union of Men, Community, Seeking Harmony.

What was noteworthy about this gathering was that the similarities were not the superficial ones we normally notice. People came from across the spectrum of ages and classes. The performers came from all over the world, and from a wide range of musical genres.

What we all had in common was a love of music, an enthusiasm for experiencing a wider context of our humanity, and the intention to have a great time.

Music, and the arts in general, bring people together. So do the pure sciences, and cooking, and gardening, and the spiritual quest. I once spent an afternoon as the guest of a family of pineapple farmers in the hills of Viet Nam; they served me tea in the tiny one-room shack that was home to a couple and their three adult children, and although we had no common language, the mother of the family and I felt the bond of the shared experience of motherhood.

The Decision of Hexagram 13 refers to a union of men ‘beyond the suburbs’, i.e. the common people, as contrasted with the government. Huang observes that “Tong Ren reveals the truth that if people deal with each other in a spirit of equality, then peace and advancement are possible.”

The Decision also says we can “cross the great waters”, meaning that we can bridge a gap, accomplish something important, cross over into new territory.

It’s a hexagram of recognizing how we are similar, and how we are different, and celebrating both.

Bradford Hatcher – always an inspiring interpreter of the I Ching – hits the nail on the head:

The fire does not enlighten the night, but the flame will make a focus in common, a unifying vision, a bonding experience and quite a little spectacle. Gathered here we agree to disagree, exchange the best of our stories and songs, make our peace...

And so the search for the greater world means going across the great waters, across our cultural boundaries, across the ages of time, outside of our niches and sometimes out of our minds. After ages of trials and wars, the clans start to take steps towards consensus, overcoming our disparities by returning to our old common grounds...

Our hope is as much in seeing things not the same way. Our frontier isn't the known. Is that not the whole point of frontiers?

1 comment:

Decker said...

Sounds like a great experience. I have been traveling to find the human experience a large music festivals as well. I hope to cross the great waters...