I didn’t learn to swim until I was ten. I’m told that when I was first put into a pool, at age 4 or so, I screamed at the top of my lungs until I could get out again. The teacher would grab other children by the hands and whirl them in circles over the surface of the water; they would squeal with delight, and I would cling onto the bar at the side of the pool with grim, total determination. No-one was getting me away from solid ground.
Come senior school, I was as determined as ever, and Mum sent me off for weekly swimming lessons. I would hold onto the side of the pool and kick with my legs, and I would hop across the shallow end paddling with my arms, but no, I would not commit myself to the water. It might work for other people, but what was that supposed to prove?
Well… this pool had a deep end. So the canny instructor took me down there, and told me to get in and swim across. He had a long wooden pole, which he promised to hold within my reach so I could grab it if I started to sink. Thus reassured, I set off.
There was water everywhere, endless depths under me and engulfing my flailing limbs and filling my mouth and nose and eyes. I screamed that I was sinking, give me the pole! Clutched for it… lunged desperately – always finding it just out of reach… and so screaming and clutching and flailing I made my way right across to the other side. Scrambled out heavy-limbed, and instead of feeling triumph or even relief, thought, I’m going to have to do that again.’ (I did. And – oddly – started enjoying it.)
Anyway… remembering this, I suddenly realised it captures the Hexagram 29, Repeating Chasms moment perfectly. The dominant characteristic of the water/pit trigram kan, repeated here, is depth and danger, and ‘Repeating’ in the hexagram name even means learning through repetition. In the watery pit, nothing to hold onto, unable to reach anything solid, only your own self keeps you afloat… and you know you’re going to have to do it again.