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The story of Shock

The story of Shock

You know how the lines of some hexagrams unfold and tell a story? Hexagram 53 traces the journey of the wild geese; 1 follows the dragon’s journey across the skies; 48 describes well-repair.

Well… I’m wondering whether something similar might not be happening in Hexagram 51. The name of the hexagram, Shock, means both a thunderclap and an earthquake, and there are a couple of good reasons for thinking of it as an earthquake. Firstly because it ‘spreads fear for 100 li‘, about 30 miles – which could just be a round number used with poetic licence, but could also mean this is an earthquake, not a thunderstorm – and secondly because it’s hard for us nowadays to imagine a thunderstorm as something that would really shake us. And I think Hexagram 51’s lines are telling the story of how we undergo and respond to Shock.

Think of earthquakes for a moment, and travel through the lines of Hexagram 51:

‘Shake comes, fear and terror.
Then afterwards, laughing words, shrieking and yelling.
Good fortune’

‘Shock comes, danger.
A hundred thousand coins lost
Climb the nine hills,
Don’t give chase.
On the seventh day, gain.’

‘Shock revives, revives.
Shock moves without blunder.’

‘Shock, and then a bog.’

‘Shake goes and comes.
Danger.
Intention is not lost – there are things to do.’

‘Shock twists and turns,
Watching in fear and terror,
Setting out to bring order: pitfall.
The shock does not reach your self,
It reaches your neighbour –
No mistake.
There are words of marital alliance.’

Hexagram 51, lines 1-6

Starting at line 1…

‘Shake comes, fear and terror.
Then afterwards, laughing words, shrieking and yelling.
Good fortune’

51.1

We’re frightened first. That’s what gets us moving, yelling to our neighbours, rousing the village, doing something about it. (This line changes to 16, which is very good at making a noise and galvanising people.)

‘Shock comes, danger.
A hundred thousand coins lost
Climb the nine hills,
Don’t give chase.
On the seventh day, gain.’

51.2

The danger of collapsing buildings, next, and physical losses. We need to get out of the village and climb to higher ground, and not dawdle to look for our lost property. (Changing to 54, because we are really not in the driving seat.)

‘Shock revives, revives.
Shock moves without blunder.’

51.3

Adrenaline flows, we come alive, and are suddenly more clear-eyed (the inner trigram is changing to li) and sure-footed. We fight off lions, or remember CPR – we can draw on whatever reserves we have. (The hexagram change is to 55, with the king at the centre, taking it on.) This will carry us through the immediate emergency.

And then we move on to the outer trigram, the second ‘Shock’. These lines seem different to me: more to do with the aftermath and the longer term.

‘Shock, and then a bog.’

51.4

The conjunction in this fourth line, the ‘and then’, means ‘what follows,’ ‘thereupon’ and ‘complying with’. I think it might be laying emphasis on a close, causal link between shock and the mud that follows. And it’s not just rainstorms that create mud: earthquakes trigger mudslides, and they can also be followed – a few hours or a few days later – by the eruption of mud volcanoes, seething with noxious gases. The first shock is over; now the wheel keeps turning, and the shock comes back to haunt us.

I’ve just been reviewing a lot of readings with this line, and found they very often describe a post-traumatic experience, with someone stuck in an emotional morass. Like the other ‘mud’ lines, there’s nothing so solid here as advice or a prediction; it just is what it is.

‘Shake goes and comes.
Danger.
Intention is not lost – there are things to do.’

51.5

Aftershocks? Perhaps. Or perhaps just the predictable unpredictability of things. We don’t know what’ll come next, but we know something will – there’s no such thing as an uninterrupted ‘normal’. (This one changes to 17, Following, a reminder of the ceaseless flow of change.) Hold onto your intention; don’t drop that ladle.

‘Shock twists and turns,
Watching in fear and terror,
Setting out to bring order: pitfall.
The shock does not reach your self,
It reaches your neighbour –
No mistake.
There are words of marital alliance.’

51.6

It’s not completely clear what the shock does here: twists, twines, squeezes, demands? The character, 索, contains the ‘silk thread’ component and Richard Sears says it originally meant ‘rope’. Perhaps it entangles and constricts, perhaps it binds.

I think this line is watching, from its higher, sixth-place perspective, the way shocks recur over time, fearing what’s to come, and wondering how to come to grips with the problem.

This line changes to 21, Biting Through – tackling a problem, and also creating an effective union. You can’t fix future earthquakes with military expeditions (‘setting out to bring order’), but how about forming an alliance for mutual help with someone at least 101 li away?

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