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Making the most of it

Making the most of it

I’ve been thinking about Hexagram 35 – and especially how it shows up as a relating hexagram.

Introducing Hexagram 35

The name of this hexagram is ‘Advancing’, or ‘Progress’ or ‘Flourishing’. The oldest form of the character seems to show arrows in their sheath:

the character 'jin', advancing

Those arrows – along the text of the oracle – suggest readiness to seize whatever opportunities present themselves and make things happen. LiSe Heyboer sums it up well:

“Prosperity does not arrive by itself, it visits the people with the right attitude. The one who always carries along arrows is probably the only one who comes home from a walk with a rabbit for dinner. The lord of Kang grasped the opportunity of a gift to breed a meadow full of horses. The first one who sees a gap in the market builds up the multinational. Grasp the small chances, do not wait for the big one to arrive, stay alert with eyes and ears and hands ready, and a quiver filled with arrows.”

The Lord of Kang has his story told in the Oracle:

‘Advancing, Prince Kang used a gift of horses to breed a multitude.
In the course of a day, he mated them three times.’

Prince Kang was the younger brother of King Wu, rewarded for helping him. He was made Lord of Kang after the Zhou conquest, and then also Lord of Wei as a reward for his military role during the consolidation of Zhou authority. Perhaps ‘Advancing’ could be a military advance? (‘Kang’ wasn’t known to be someone’s name until it was found in bronze inscriptions in the 1920’s, which is why Wilhelm translates simply ‘the powerful prince’.)

The gift of horses is also a sign of royal favour and trust – and Kang, breeding the horses, makes the most of this.

Hexagram 35 is the inverse of 36, Brightness Hiding. This also tells the story of a virtuous lord, Ji, who was neither recognised nor rewarded, and had to hide his light for fear of persecution. The contrast is clear – and the Zagua, the Wing of contrasts, says that Advancing means daylight while Brightness Hiding means punishment.

:::|:|‘Daylight’ is apparent in the trigrams of 35: fire and light above the earth. Comparing the fate of Kang to the equally-virtuous Ji, we might think of the English expression, ‘your day in the sun’. In such times, mate the horses to breed a multitude, carry arrows ready to seize your opportunities, seize the day, make hay while the sun shines. Hexagram 35 does not mean, ‘Work on your tan.’

This is the kind of hexagram you might think of as ‘positive’ (if, that is, you hadn’t read Bradford’s excellent post on the subject of ‘Positive and negative hexagrams’). So… what happens when 35 is the relating hexagram?

35 as relating hexagram

That is… what happens when your cast hexagram is moving to 35 – when the changes in the answer reveal 35 in the background? It might be an attitude or tendency; it might well be a ‘positive thinking’ kind of mindset, that always asks, ‘What is the gift in this situation, and how can I make the most of it?’

Of course, a full answer to this question would involve looking at 63 possible readings… but let’s try just six of them, the ones where a single line changes to 35. Here they are:

21.1 > 35

‘Shoes locked in the stocks, feet disappear.
Not a mistake.’

64.2 > 35

‘Your wheels dragged back.
Constancy, good fortune.’

56.3 > 35

‘Traveller burns down his resting place
Loses his young helper.
Constancy: danger.’

23.4 > 35

‘Stripping the bed by way of the flesh.
Pitfall.’

12.5 > 35

‘Resting when blocked.
Great person, good fortune.
It is lost, it is lost!
Tie it to the bushy mulberry tree.’

16.6 > 35

‘Enthusiasm in the dark.
Results bring a change of heart,
No mistake.’

Maybe not as sunny as we might expect?

These lines seem to me to belong in pairs, corresponding to the three ‘layers’ of a hexagram: lines 1 and 2 (earth realm), 3 and 4 (human) and 5 and 6 (spirit). I’ll have a look at how Advancing shines through each of these.

Earth (lines 1 and 2)

21.1

‘Shoes locked in the stocks, feet disappear.
Not a mistake.’

The traditional view on this line – which I like – is that someone who has made a minor error is being stopped in their tracks before they can do anything worse. The stocks keep you out from running into trouble.

Since this changes to 35, we can ask, how is this the Advancing of Biting Through? What’s the opportunity in Biting Through that someone might seize and make the most of in this line?

Surely it’s having time to think: the opportunity to reflect, and make some progress in understanding. To make a connection with truth. So let’s make the most of biting through – since we can do nothing else, let’s learn something.

64.2

‘Your wheels dragged back.
Constancy, good fortune.’

This is very similar to line 1, isn’t it? What’s the opportunity in being Not Yet Across? Not to have to rush into crossing; not to lose control of your momentum and be sent crashing down the bank into the river. So let’s make the most of not being across the river – let’s protract the crossing, take more time to think, be as safe as we can be while still moving forward.

These two lines, down in the ‘earth’ realm, obviously share a theme of festina lente (make haste slowly). To ‘seize the day’ at ground level doesn’t mean making stuff happen; it means accepting what is happening, and engaging with that. Here we are, getting into the basic conditions of the situation. How might these be an opportunity, or how might we engage with them to open out that opportunity? (How can we make lemonade while the sun shines?)

If you compare the reading where lines 1 and 2 change to reveal 35 – 38.1.2 to 35 – I think you see similar themes: slow down and see what’s real; accept that and find the best way to engage with it.

Humanity (lines 3 and 4)

In these two lines, having an attitude of Advancing turns out to be not such a great idea.

56.3

‘Traveller burns down his resting place
Loses his young helper.
Constancy: danger.’

Here I am at a resting place on my journey – what’s the opportunity here? How can I make the most of this? Let’s get a really good blaze going and warm the place up!

(oops)

Another layer of meaning in this line (one LiSe found) is that it can be the moment when the traveller decides to go on alone. Burning down the resting place, forfeiting the helper – this is like ‘burning your boats’, a way to express your confidence in your journey. And that’s also in the spirit of Hexagram 35: onward! No looking back!

(‘Constancy, danger’ in that case would make this one of those lines that says, ‘This strategy will work this time, but it wouldn’t make such a good guiding principle.’ 35.6 is another of those.)

23.4

‘Stripping the bed by way of the flesh.
Pitfall.’

What’s the opportunity in Stripping Away? To get rid of everything that’s old and redundant! Let’s make the most of this good, sharp knife! Out with the old! Onward!

(ouch)

Stephen Field associates hexagram 23 with the story of Heng and Hai, which would make this a terrible contrast between two pairs of brothers. Kang supported Wu, and was rewarded. Heng betrayed Hai to the authorities and had him chopped into bits – only to suffer his own come-uppance later, at the hands of Hai’s son.

So… a 35, make-the-most-of-it approach in the realm of human nature can be a destructive force. ‘Make hay while the sun shines’? You can have too much fire, and too much scything.

Advancing in the human realm seems to mean identifying with the ‘time’ of the hexagram – not in the sense of conscious choice (‘What might a traveller encounter? Where do I want to arrive?’), but just getting stuck in. And if we look at the two-line change of the human realm to 35 – 52.3.4 to 35 – then I think we’re looking at two ways of identifying with stillness, or identifying as still. (Not just ‘I’ll keep my feet still,’ or ‘I’ll keep my mouth quiet,’ but ‘I am still’.) And this is not straightforward, although it could be beautiful.

Heaven (lines 5 and 6)

In the spiritual/mental realm of lines 5 and 6, we might expect to see more awareness and more choice…

12.5

‘Resting when blocked.
Great person, good fortune.
It is lost, it is lost!
Tie it to the bushy mulberry tree.’

How can you make the most of being blocked? What’s the opportunity in that?

Well… there’s the opportunity to have a rest.

Although we might also be inclined to ‘make the most of’ the drama (‘it is lost!’), ultimately we’re learning to be philosophical about how things are. Sometimes things naturally flow our way and our ideas bear fruit; sometimes, they don’t. And when they don’t, this is an opportunity to reconnect with the natural pace of growth and change: tie it to the mulberry. (This opportunity is so well-hidden that it’s also tucked away in the nuclear hexagram of 12: 53, Gradual Progress, the hardy tree growing on the mountain.)

16.6

‘Enthusiasm in the dark.
Results bring a change of heart,
No mistake.’

You can imagine Hexagram 16 – Enthusiasm, imagination on a grand scale – multiplying with the vigorous, optimistic engagement of 35. You’d surely have technicolor imaginings – but they’re still in the dark. Real-world results will make a difference.

I think this is a line of animal enthusiasm and energy: dancing and moving on in the dark (in all senses of the phrase), because you’ll only learn where you are by moving and creating change – maybe succeeding, or maybe running headlong into a pit or two. Is this wise? Hardly… but then, is wisdom really called for? It’s no mistake to be in motion – better, surely, than sitting down and brooding. Enthusiasm in the dark actually contains the opportunity to go beyond enthusiasm into understanding.

So in this realm, there does seem to be more of a conscious choice to participate in the full nature of the time: when Blocked, to rest and bind to the growing mulberry; to maintain the energy of Enthusiasm even in the dark, and use it to carry you further. Again, comparing the two-line change: 45.5.6 to 35 does enter fully into the spirit of 45, by investing everything, holding nothing back – ‘leaving it all on the field’. And… mightn’t the cry of ‘It is lost! It is lost!’ or the ‘change of heart’ be accompanied by ‘Sighs, tears and snot’? I get the feeling from all three readings that this higher-level Advance is led by full emotional engagement.

Summing up…?

Clearly, having 35 as relating hexagram, that eager ‘make the most of this!’ mindset, isn’t the most reliable guide. It seems to work well when the original situation (the cast hexagram) is one that might slow you down and give you pause for thought – 21, 64 or 12 – something that puts obstacles in the way of Progress. (6.2.5 to 35 is another good one.) Asking, ‘What’s the gift in this? What is there here to work with?’ in such times is a help. When the situation has its own momentum, Advancing might multiply it – and it could run away with you.

galloping horses

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