I always enjoy finding someone writing about hexagrams without knowing it. Here is Zoë of ‘Essential Prose’ writing about Hexagram 38, Opposing.
The way she is, in fact, talking about Hexagram 38 really leaps from the page:
“…the things we dismiss or reject because they don’t fit inside our perception of how things work. Maybe we dismiss someone as “living on another planet” because their ideas seem to have no grounding whatsoever in the reality we know. …do we stop to think: what if it’s possible? What if they see something I don’t see?”
Exactly: this is all very familiar, even to the point that I sometimes mention that ‘from another planet’ idea when discussing Hexagram 38 with clients. It’s not that you’re necessarily ‘dismissing’ anything or anyone, though; just that you observe how very alien their way of seeing is to your own.
“…“Crazy people” see things we don’t see. And maybe the Things We Don’t See are immensely valuable and eye-opening, rather than delusional.”
This is the gift of Opposing, and I believe this is why its Oracle offers you good fortune – good luck, pure and simple – from ‘small affairs’. It doesn’t just say ‘no mistake’: this is not just about avoiding confrontation and staying out of trouble.
Finally, Zoë describes her encounter with “a woman wearing a jumble of bright colors and mysterious bags”. Opposing is the weird multi-coloured bag-lady’s hexagram: meeting her, or being her, or finding she will insist on sharing the space between your ears with your normal, driving-straight-ahead-at-the-crossroads self.
And it’s the hexagram of strange visions and encounters – the journey through the line texts is one of ‘seeing’ and ‘meeting’ (I think Zoë was at line 2) – and simply of encountering irreducible difference. “Generally, different makes people uncomfortable,” which is one reason why Yi recommends ‘small affairs’, to keep that discomfort at bay long enough that we can genuinely meet what is different. A difference of vision in the big things can make people feel they are fighting for their very existence.
I think (though this is still new territory for me) that this helps in understanding the Shadow Hexagram, 27, Nourishment. If you enter into a time of Opposing in search of Nourishment, looking for an environment that will hold and sustain you, looking to become part of a single ecosystem where you’re fully provided for… you will run into that utter difference like a brick wall.
So how can you respond?
I think the idea is to keep the relationship between those different visions alive, holding them together lightly in ‘small affairs’ so the survival instincts aren’t triggered and the encounter can be a blessing. This may mean allowing yourself and other people to be different; it may mean allowing yourself to contain difference. This way, you keep the possibility of seeing from the outside.
What you can’t do is create a blend and compromise – as the component trigrams, fire and lake, testify.
‘Fire above, lake below. Opposing.
A noble one both harmonises and separates.’
Different translators bring out variety of meanings here: how the noble one ‘differentiates among things while remaining sensitive to their similarities’ (RJ Lynn), ‘amid all fellowship, …retains his individuality’ (Wilhelm), or ‘where there is a general agreement, yet admits diversity’ (Legge). What they share is a sense that difference and strangeness is to be valued equally with harmony.
Maybe this casts light on the ‘Ideal’ hexagram – the one created if you locate the original hexagram’s component trigrams in the Later Heaven bagua, and replace them with the trigrams in corresponding positions in the Early Heaven bagua. Opposing’s ‘ideal’ is 6, Arguing or Conflict, so the thematic link is hard to miss. It’s good to state and know your difference, to clarify it. Then if you can manage to see the differences clearly and not look to be fed, ultimately Opposing can open out and nourish you in unexpected ways. Or as Stephen Karcher has it, ‘Present your position carefully and retreat from open conflict, and the channels of spiritual nourishment will be spontaneously cleared in the process.’ Perhaps line 5 shows how.
The hidden core and task of Opposing, its nuclear hexagram, is 63, Already Across. The challenge is to take what is accomplished and defined – including difference – as a starting point, and always to keep on taking it as a starting point, keeping the pattern clear.