One of the trickier aspects of interpreting an I Ching reading has to be working out what scale the oracle’s using. By which I mean, if it says ‘good fortune’, is that a lottery win or a pot of jam in the raffle (for instance)? Does ‘misfortune’ mean mild inconvenience, or threat to life and limb?
This is one of the reasons why it’s not helpful to label a hexagram ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and why instead it’s better to understand the shape of experience and feeling they represent. When Hexagram 47 says ‘there are words, not trusted’, this might represent a catastrophic relationship breakdown amidst complete mutual distrust. But it can just as well represent a tennis player contesting line calls made by a machine. (The character for ‘trust’ contains the elements ‘words’ and ‘person’; he was reacting against calls made with no person behind them.)
I’m just emerging from a gem of an experience of â€˜scale’ myself, and I’d welcome your comments on it.
When I was choosing which web designer to hire, none of the readings about individual designers was exactly promising, but the ‘least bad’ option was Hexagram 54, with the first line moving.
With Hexagram 54 I knew I would be abdicating control, and I’d probably find this stressful. I knew I wouldn’t be at the top of his list of priorities. But the moving line –
‘Maiden marries as a younger sister.
Limping, can still walk.
Setting out to bring order: good fortune.’
– made the reading much more promising. There might be limping, but there would still be progress: this wasn’t 54’s ‘default’ where I would be powerless to change things. I was prepared for this to be a challenge, and looked forward to working through it. After all, I’d already enjoyed talking to the man, and he was a fellow â€˜solopreneur’, so it was natural to assume he’d provide good customer service.
Three months after the original deadline passed 😯 , I’ve just sent the designer his final payment. The work’s not quite complete, but I can get the rest done without too much difficulty, and I’m pleased with the templates he’s prepared for me and their flexibility.
On that priority list of his, though, I turned out to come below his more illustrious clients, his daily marketing activities, and his kitchen renovation.
The warning was there in the reading; I even understood it and took notes on it. What I didn’t appreciate (oh, the joys of hindsight!) was the scale of the thing.
Could I have done a better job of interpreting, and saved myself all these months of frustration, uncertainty and missed opportunities? Yes, I think I could. I needed to take the reading as my cue to ask more questions until I was sure I understood.
By ‘ask more questions’, I don’t necessarily mean going back to the I Ching, though of course I could have done. ‘What would this experience of “limping” feel like?’ might have been a good one to ask… . But I could just as well have sought out people who’d worked with him before and learned from their experience. I could have read between the lines a little in his first emails to me, where he talked about what an overload of clients he had. And so on.
What I’m learning from this so far is that it’s important in divination, as in any other conversation, not to assume too much. When I’m reading for other people, I’m always conscious of this. The first thing I do is to recognise my assumptions about the situation and ‘bracket them off’ from the work of interpretation, so I can approach the reading with an open mind. Maybe this is harder to do when reading for oneself?
So anyway – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What’s the divination lesson I should be learning from this, in your view?