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Hexagram 62: Crossing Over in Small Ways

Hexagrams 28 and 62 are both about guo: ‘passing, going by, exceeding’. The central idea is crossing a line – whether that’s a standard of morality or of customs, or a border in time (such as the change of the year). LiSe has broken the character down into component parts: footsteps, and a mountain pass. And so in readings, these hexagrams tend to describe transitions: complete this crossing, go beyond what’s familiar or expected, and you’ll find yourself in a whole new landscape.

Oddly enough, I’ve never found the contrast between ‘Small Overstepping’ and ‘Great Overstepping’ to be about the size of the transition itself. It has more to do with the stature and strategy of the person making it. You can’t make the transition called for in Hexagram 62 on the basis of your personal strength and power to bring about change; you have to do it as a small person, one who responds and adapts to a bigger reality even as she travels.

This is a significant challenge. Small people, in the Yijing, tend to stay put and make only the changes necessary for survival (23.6, 49.6). But here, you’re emerging from the extraordinary experience of Hexagram 61, where you knew the Inner Truth of things in the core of your being. True, there are many ways this can happen (not all of them fun), but the sequence from Inner Truth to Small Overstepping always reminds me of the ‘crossing of the return threshold’ in the Hero’s Journey.

The hero has won a boon, gained a truth; now he is impelled (from within or without) to bring it home to the ordinary world. ‘To have trust naturally means acting [on it]’: you can’t know a truth inwardly and not do something with it.

But experience back in the ordinary world is very different. (61 and 62 are a complementary hexagram pair.)

Inwardly you’re filled; outwardly, you’re dwarfed. Instead of floating like a hollow log (as the commentary on 61 describes it) you can only put one foot in front of the other. Things don’t ‘just happen’ now without your attention and effort every step of the way.

So you’re challenged to act on your inner awareness, go beyond the limits (expectations, standards, norms…) of the world, but do so in a way that keeps you constantly connected with the world, always adapting and responding to it, because it’s so much bigger than you are. Cross over and stay small:

‘Small overstepping, creating success.
Harvest in constancy.
Allows small works, does not allow great works.
Flying bird calls as it leaves:
The above is not right, below is right.
Great good fortune.’

You can do small things here, not great ones. You’re offered the wisdom of a small bird: don’t try to soar like the eagle, you’ll only get blown away (or shot by the nearest hunter); stay low. In English we’d talk about ‘coming down to earth’ and ‘keeping your feet on the ground’. Mother Theresa summed it up best:

‘We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love.’

Most of us, most of the time, are unlikely to welcome the small bird’s message. But after insisting on our small crossing, small works and groundedness, the oracle suddenly offers ‘great good fortune.’ I think it’s making a deliberate contrast. Great good fortune doesn’t depend on you doing great things; it can happen when you simply fill your own place, doing exactly what’s yours to do.

The moving lines of Small Overstepping represent its double challenge as a balance between ‘crossing over’ and ‘meeting’. How else will you make the connections through which the message can be expressed in reality?

‘Flying bird means pitfall.’

This is about taking off prematurely – maybe impelled by a great sense of personal mission (given that this line connects with Hexagram 55), but without taking the time (55.1) to understand the realities within which it has to happen. It’s an attempt to carry the message without getting the message.

This line mirrors the sixth, which sounds similar:

‘Not meeting at all, passing it by.
Flying bird leaves.
Known as calamity and blunder.’

Now the message has passed by altogether; the opportunity to connect, understand and make changes has been missed; this is the disaster of not seeing, not getting it. (You can get more of a sense for this by looking across to 56.6.)

The next pair of mutually-reflecting lines are 2 and 5, the inner and outer centres. How to make connections – and how to ensure they’ll work, sustainably, in the long run?

‘Passing your grandfather, meeting your grandmother.
Not reaching your chief, meeting your servant.
No mistake.’

‘Dark clouds, no rain
from our western suburbs.
Prince with a string arrow gets one dwelling in a cave.’

These two lines connect with Hexagrams 32 and 31 respectively: the enduring patterns of relationship, and the initial connection that galvanises things into movement.

Line 5’s prince takes a direct approach to ‘connecting’: embedding an arrow in whatever (or whoever) he needs and hauling them out of the cave. He’ll do what it takes to ‘precipitate’ potential into reality.

Line 2 – the realm of connections rather than command – looks to make connections that can bring lasting change. It shifts attention away from originators and causes, and towards whoever or whatever brings the original conception into being; it plugs directly into the process of realisation.

The central lines of the hexagram, on either side of the ‘threshold’ between inner and outer trigrams, deal with the fraught moment of transition.

‘Not passing by, he defends himself.
Someone is following behind and may kill him.

‘No mistake.
Not passing by, meeting it.
Going on is dangerous, must be on guard.
Don’t use ever-flowing constancy.’

Line 3 stops short of making the transition, digs in and fortifies his position. ‘This is where I stand and I’m sticking to it!’ But do his resources match his enthusiasm (16)? It’s certainly not safe to move onward – meeting the new world calls for an alert responsiveness born of realism (15) – but it might be safer. And if you can’t change, what are the chances that anything else will?

Further reading from the blog:

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