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Pounding the drum

Hexagram 14, Great Possession, says at line 4,
匪其彭。无咎。 – Not your (or its) peng, no mistake.

Peng means power and dominance – Wu Jing Nuan translates with his usual succinctness, ‘Not his to be strong’  – and the old character shows a drum with three strokes next to it, perhaps representing the sound of the drum in the air.

So what is this thing not to do, be or have, and why would we imagine that to be a mistake?

Peng in the Shijing, the Book of Songs, is always repeated, peng peng, and is translated as ‘numerous’ or ‘advance without stopping’. There are travellers on the move, wagons rolling out, horse teams ‘never halting’ or ‘galloping along’, and a grand array of one hundred chariots. It makes me think of a constant thunder of hooves – pounding, pounding, peng peng.

Oh yes… Peng is also the name of a place, and of a mythical Methuselah figure, and of someone (who may or may not be the same) who was granted immortality when God was especially pleased with his pheasant soup offering. That does sound related to Hexagram 14, with its ‘Great Possession’ that is also a great offering, but it doesn’t seem so related to any readings I came across in my researches.

In practice, I find not peng means not being in control: not being the overbearingly dominant presence in a situation, not throwing your weight around, and especially,  not pounding your drum in the expectation that all will march to your drumbeat. The line doesn’t say you can’t succeed in this – sometimes you can – merely that you won’t miss anything important by not doing so. Beating your drum until everything vibrates in time is not the same thing as communication.

This line comes up often when someone wants to know exactly what the beloved is thinking so they can change it – what he thinks of her, how he responds to her, and so on. There’s also the worry that if I’m not in control, things might not be done right (erm, did I mention that I always start researching lines with my own journals? 🙂 ). Or if my gifts aren’t being used to the full, surely that must be a mistake?

Yet it turns out that it really isn’t: things may not work altogether perfectly without your control, but they work well enough. Even if you can’t determine how he responds to you, you will survive well enough without his validation. So many things can be outside your dominion, and yet not go disastrously wrong. Some (like relationships) even work better when they’re not made into a battle for dominance.

Changing this line alone points you towards the zhi gua, 26, Great Taming. This hints at another way: containing your energy and strength of feeling, and controlling how you apply your strengths, fitting them judiciously to the situation. (Yes, no doubt you can see how to restructure the organisation, but just now there’s no one else to stack the dishwasher…)  Great Possession, Greatly Tamed – a way of growing into your own strength?

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