Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Standstill comes to an end

He who keeps danger in mind is he who will rest safe in his seat;
He who keeps ruin in mind is he who will preserve his interests secure;
He who sets the danger of disorder before him is he who will maintain the state of order.
Therefore the superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come;
When in a state of security, he does not forget the possibility of ruin;
When all is in a state of order, he does not forget that disorder may come.
Thus his person is kept safe, and his states and all their clans can be preserved.

These lines are from an English translation of an old book, called the I Ching (Hexagram 12, Line 5), which is often used as an oracle; but this need not be its main purpose, as a random look into it reveals a cornucopia of usually-excellent advice—of which the above is a prime example.

Hexgram 12 isn't particularly cheery, it's title usually translated as 'Standstill' or 'Stagnation', or, in the Alfred Huang translation, as 'Hindrance', which doesn't sound quite as ominous.

Line 5, however, indicates that Standstill finally gives way, and that things change for the better. Still, at the same time there's the admonition cited above, which really needs no explanation.

Why should I bring this up in my last blog before Christmas? Well, mainly because I just happened to have a philosophical moment—I do that occasionally—and randomly poked my nose into the I Ching, as I also sometimes do, almost always with thought-provoking results and often uncanny resonances with whatever might be on my mind at the time. And there was this and it seemed to me that, amidst the usual cheery-and-upbeat-even-if-it-kills-us Christmas spirit, the thoughts expressed above might well represent a ray of seldom-glimpsed profundity and sage advice.

Take them to heart or do not. Ponder them or forget them as quickly as you have read them. Whataver your disposition may be will determine whether this resonates with you or whether you'll consider it all rather too tedious to think about in your eagerness to have a good time. Like everything else it's your choice, and the consequences will be what they are.

And so, in a spirit of pensive gratitude for having my family having gone through another year without major tragedies and disasters, and also very much in the spirit of the I Ching's admonitions above, I wish you a good holiday.

Be safe. Stay healthy. Stay alert.

Best wishes to all.

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