Categories for Books, films and TV

66. Lowdown

Lakes and rivers are lords of the hundred valleys.
Why? Because they’ll go lower.
So they’re the lords of the hundred valleys.

Just so, a wise soul,
wanting to be above other people,
talks to them from below
and to guide them
follows them.

And so the wise soul
predominates without dominating,
and leads without misleading.
And people don’t get tired
of enjoying and praising
one who, not competing,
has in all the world
no competitor.

Source: Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published on January 15, 2024 at 6:00 by

Duration – Enthusiasm

32. Hêng / Duration

above CHEN THE AROUSING, THUNDER
below SUN THE GENTLE, WIND

The strong trigram Chên is above, the weak trigram Sun below. This hexagram is the inverse of the preceding one. In the latter we have influence, here we have union as an enduring condition. The two images are thunder and wind, which are likewise constantly paired phenomena. The lower trigram indicates gentleness within; the upper, movement without.
In the sphere of social relationships, the hexagram represents the institution of marriage as the enduring union of the sexes. During courtship the young man subordinates himself to the girl, but in marriage, which is represented by the coming together of the eldest son and the eldest daughter, the husband is the directing and moving force outside, while the wife, inside, is gentle and submissive.

THE JUDGMENT

DURATION. Success. No blame.
Perseverance furthers.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.

Duration is a state whose movement is not worn down by hindrances. It is not a state of rest, for mere standstill is regression. Duration is rather the self-contained and therefore self-renewing movement of an organized, firmly integrated whole, taking place in accordance with immutable laws and beginning anew at every ending. The end is reached by an inward movement, by inhalation, systole, contraction, and this movement turns into a new beginning, in which the movement is directed outward, in exhalation, diastole, expansion.
Heavenly bodies exemplify duration. They move in their fixed orbits, and because of this their light-giving power endures. The seasons of the year follow a fixed law of change and transformation, hence can produce effects that endure.
So likewise the dedicated man embodies an enduring meaning in his way of life, and thereby the world is formed. In that which gives things their duration, we can come to understand the nature of all beings in heaven and on earth.

THE IMAGE

Thunder and wind: the image of DURATION.
Thus the superior man stands firm
And does not change has direction.

Thunder rolls, and the wind blows; both are examples of extreme mobility and so are seemingly the very opposite of duration, but the laws governing their appearance and subsidence, their coming and going, endure. In the same way the independence of the superior man is not based on rigidity and immobility of character. He always keeps abreast of the time and changes with it. What endures is the unswerving directive, the inner law of his being, which determines all his actions.

° Nine in the second place means:
Remorse disappears.

The situation is abnormal. A man’s force of character is greater than the available material power. Thus he might be afraid of allowing himself to attempt something beyond his strength. However, since it is the time of DURATION, it is possible for him to control his inner strength and so to avoid excess. Cause for remorse then disappears.

Nine in the third place means:
He who does not give duration to his character
Meets with disgrace.
Persistent humiliation.

If a man remains at the mercy of moods of hope or fear aroused by the outer world, he loses his inner consistency of character. Such inconsistency invariably leads to distressing experiences. These humiliations often come from an unforeseen quarter. Such experiences are not merely effects produced by the external world, but logical consequences evoked by his own nature.

16. Yü / Enthusiasm

above CHêN THE AROUSING, THUNDER
below K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH

The strong line in the fourth place, that of the leading official, meets with response and obedience from all the other lines, which are all weak. The attribute of the upper trigram, Chên, is movement; the attributes of K’un, the lower, are obedience and devotion. This begins a movement that meets with devotion and therefore inspires enthusiasm, carrying all with it. Of great importance, furthermore, is the law of movement along the line of least resistance, which in this hexagram is enunciated as the law for natural events and for human life.

THE JUDGMENT

ENTHUSIASM. It furthers one to install helpers
And to set armies marching.

The time of ENTHUSIASM derives from the fact that there is at hand an eminent man who is in sympathy with the spirit of the people and acts in accord with it. Hence he finds universal and willing obedience. To arouse enthusiasm it is necessary for a man to adjust himself and his ordinances to the character of those whom he has to lead. The inviolability of natural laws rests on this principle of movement along the line of least resistance. Theses laws are not forces external to things but represent the harmony of movement immanent in them. That is why the celestial bodies do not deviate from their orbits and why all events in nature occur with fixed regularity. It is the same with human society: only such laws are rooted in popular sentiment can be enforced, while laws violating this sentiment merely arouse resentment.
Again, it is enthusiasm that enables us to install helpers for the completion of an undertaking without fear of secret opposition. It is enthusiasm too that can unify mass movements, as in war, so that they achieve victory.

THE IMAGE

Thunder comes resounding out of the earth:
The image of ENTHUSIASM.
Thus the ancient kings made music
In order to honor merit,
And offered it with splendor
To the Supreme Deity,
Inviting their ancestors to be present.

When, at the beginning of summer, thunder–electrical energy–comes rushing forth from the earth again, and the first thunderstorm refreshes nature, a prolonged state of tension is resolved. Joy and relief make themselves felt. So too, music has power to ease tension within the heart and to loosen the grip of obscure emotions. The enthusiasm of the heart expresses itself involuntarily in a burst of song, in dance and rhythmic movement of the body. From immemorial times the inspiring effect of the
invisible sound that moves all hearts, and draws them together, has mystified mankind.
Rulers have made use of this natural taste for music; they elevated and regulated it. Music was looked upon as something serious and holy, designed to purify the feelings of men. It fell to music to glorify the virtues of heroes and thus to construct a bridge to the world of the unseen. In the temple men drew near to God with music and pantomimes (out of this later the theater developed). Religious feeling for the Creator of the world was united with the most sacred of human feelings, that of reverence for the ancestors. The ancestors were invited to these divine services as guests of the Ruler of Heaven and as representatives of humanity in the higher regions. This uniting of the human past with the Divinity in solemn moments of religious inspiration established the bond between God and man. The ruler who revered the Divinity in revering his ancestors became thereby the Son of Heaven, in whom the heavenly and the earthly world met in mystical contact.
These ideas are the final summation of Chinese culture. Confucius has said of the great sacrifice at which these rites were performed: “He who could wholly comprehend this sacrifice could rule the world as though it were spinning on his hand.”

Published on January 1, 2024 at 6:00 by

Zonder jou

De wereld is wonderlijk leeg zonder jou.
Er staat maar zo weinig meer in.
De hemel is aldoor zo hinderlijk blauw.
Waarom? Wat heeft het voor zin?
De merel zit zachtjes te zingen in ‘t groen.
Voor mij hoeft-ie heus zo z’n best niet te doen.
De wereld kon vol van geluk zijn, maar nou:
leeg, zonder jou.

Dat zonder jou nog een lente bestaat
met ooievaars en met bloemen,
dat er een meidoorn in bruidstooi staat,
is zonder meer tactloos te noemen.
En wat is het nut van een lindelaan,
als wij er samen niet langs kunnen gaan?
Langs alle heggetjes bloeit wilde roos –
nutteloos, zinneloos.

De wereld is wonderlijk leeg zonder jou.
Er staat maar zo weinig meer in.
De hemel is aldoor zo hinderlijk blauw.
Waarom? Wat heeft het voor zin?
De merel zit zachtjes te zingen in ‘t groen.
Voor mij hoeft-ie heus zo z’n best niet te doen.
De wereld kon vol van geluk zijn, maar nou:
leeg, zonder jou.

Annie M.G. Schmidt, 1947

Published on December 11, 2023 at 6:00 by

78. Paradoxes

Nothing in the world
is as soft, as weak, as water;
nothing else can wear away
the hard, the strong,
and remain unaltered.
Soft overcomes hard,
weak overcomes strong.
Everybody knows it,
nobody uses the knowledge.

So the wise say:
By bearing common defilements
you become a sacrificer at the altar of earth;
by bearing common evils
you become a lord of the world.

Right words sound wrong.

Source: Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published on October 30, 2023 at 6:00 by

Modesty

39. Chien / Obstruction

The hexagram pictures a dangerous abyss lying before us and a steep, inaccessible mountain rising behind us. We are surrounded by obstacles; at the same time, since the mountain has the attribute of keeping still, there is implicit a hint as to how we can extricate ourselves. The hexagram represents obstructions that appear in the course of time but that can and should be overcome. Therefore all the instruction given is directed to overcoming them.

THE JUDGMENT

OBSTRUCTION. The southwest furthers.
The northeast does not further.
It furthers one to see the great man.
Perseverance brings good fortune.

The southwest is the region of retreat, the northeast that of advance. Here an individual is confronted by obstacles that cannot be overcome directly. In such a situation it is wise to pause in view of the danger and to retreat. However, this is merely a preparation for overcoming the obstructions. One must join forces with friends of like mind and put himself under the leadership of a man equal to the situation: then one will succeed in removing the obstacles. This requires the will to persevere just when one apparently must do something that leads away from his goal. This unswerving inner purpose brings good fortune in the end. An obstruction that lasts only for a time is useful for self-development. This is the value of adversity.

THE IMAGE

Water on the mountain:
The image of OBSTRUCTION.
Thus the superior man turns his attention to himself
And molds his character.

Difficulties and obstructions throw a man back upon himself. While the inferior man seeks to put the blame on other persons, bewailing his fate, the superior man seeks the error within himself, and through this introspection the external obstacle becomes for him an occasion for inner enrichment and education.

° Nine in the fifth place means:
In the midst of the greatest obstructions,
Friends come.

Here we see a man who is called to help in an emergency. He should not seek to evade the obstructions, no matter how dangerously they pile up before him. But because he is really called to the task, the power of his spirit is strong enough to attract helpers whom he can effectively organize, so that through the well-directed co-operation of all participants the obstruction is overcome.

15. Ch’ien / Modesty

above K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH
below KEN KEEPING STILL, MOUNTAIN

This hexagram is made up of the trigrams Kên, Keeping Still, mountain, and K’un. The mountain is the youngest son of the Creative, the representative of heaven and earth. It dispenses the blessings of heaven, the clouds and rain that gather round its summit, and thereafter shines forth radiant with heavenly light. This shows what modesty is and how it functions in great and strong men. K’un, the earth, stands above. Lowliness is a quality of the earth: this is the very reason why it appears in this hexagram as exalted, by being placed above the mountain. This shows how modesty functions in lowly, simple people: they are lifted up by it.

THE JUDGMENT

MODESTY creates success.
The superior man carries things through.

It is the law of heaven to make fullness empty and to make full what is modest; when the sun is at its zenith, it must, according to the law of heaven, turn toward its setting, and at its nadir it rises toward a new dawn. In obedience to the same law, the moon when it is full begins to wane, and when empty of light it waxes again. This heavenly law works itself out in the fates of men also. It is the law of earth to alter the full and to contribute to the modest. High mountains are worn down by the waters, and the valleys are filled up. It is the law of fate to undermine what is full and to prosper the modest. And men also hate fullness and love the modest.
The destinies of men are subject to immutable laws that must fulfill themselves. But man has it in his power to shape his fate, according as his behavior exposes him to the influence of benevolent or of destructive forces. When a man holds a high position and is nevertheless modest, he shines with the light of wisdom; if he is in a lowly position and is modest, he cannot be passed by. Thus the superior man can carry out his work to the end without boasting of what he has achieved.

THE IMAGE

Within the earth, a mountain:
The image of MODESTY.
Thus the superior man reduces that which is too much,
And augments that which is too little.
He weighs things and makes them equal.

The wealth of the earth in which a mountain is hidden is not visible to the eye, because the depths are offset by the height of the mountain. Thus high and low competent each other and the result is the plain. Here an effect that it took a long time to achieve, but that in the end seems easy of accomplishment and self-evident, is used as the image of modesty. The superior man does the same thing when he establishes order in the world; he equalizes the extremes that are the source of social discontent and thereby creates just and equable conditions.

Published on October 9, 2023 at 6:00 by

44. Fame and fortune

Which is nearer, name or self?
Which is dearer,
self or wealth?
Which gives more pain,
loss or gain?

All you grasp will be thrown away.
All you hoard will be utterly lost.

Contentment keeps disgrace away.
Restraint keeps you out of danger
so you can go on for a long, long time.

Published on September 11, 2023 at 6:00 by

37. Over all

The Way never does anything,
and everything gets done.
If those in power could hold to the Way,
the ten thousand things
would look after themselves.
If even so they tried to act,
I’d quiet them with the nameless,
the natural.

In the unnamed, in the unshapen,
is not wanting.
In not wanting is stillness.
In stillness all under heaven rests.

Source: Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published on July 17, 2023 at 6:00 by

21. The empty heart

The greatest power is the gift
of following the Way alone.
How the Way does things
is hard to grasp, elusive.
Elusive, yes, hard to grasp,
yet there are thoughts in it.
Hard to grasp, yes, elusive,
yet there are things in it.
Hard to make out, yes, and obscure,
yet there is spirit in it,
veritable spirit.
There is certainty in it.
From long, long ago till now
it has kept its name.
So it saw
the beginning of everything.

How do I know
anything about the beginning?
By this.

Source: Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin

Published on June 19, 2023 at 6:00 by

Standstill > Retreat

12. P’i / Standstill [Stagnation]

above CH’IEN THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN
below K’UN THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH

This hexagram is the opposite of the preceding one. Heaven is above, drawing farther and farther away, while the earth below sinks farther into the depths. The creative powers are not in relation. It is a time of standstill and decline. This hexagram is linked with the seventh month (August-September), when the year has passed its zenith and autumnal decay is setting in.

THE JUDGMENT

STANDSTILL. Evil people do not further
The perseverance of the superior man.
The great departs; the small approaches.

Heaven and earth are out of communion and all things are benumbed. What is above has no relation to what is below, and on earth confusion and disorder prevail. The dark power is within, the light power is without. Weakness is within, harshness without. Within are the inferior, and without are the superior. The way of inferior people is in ascent; the way of superior people is one the decline. But the superior people do not allow
themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting influence is closed to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their principles and withdraw into seclusion.

THE IMAGE

Heaven and earth do not unite:
The image of STANDSTILL.
Thus the superior man falls back upon his inner worth
In order to escape the difficulties.
He does not permit himself to be honored with revenue.

When, owing to the influence of inferior men, mutual mistrust prevails in public life, fruitful activity is rendered impossible, because the fundaments are wrong. Therefore the superior man knows what he must do under such circumstances; he does not allow himself to be tempted by dazzling offers to take part in public activities. This would only expose him to danger, since he cannot assent to the meanness of the others. He therefore hides his worth and withdraws into seclusion.

Six in the third place means:
They bear shame.

Inferior people who have risen to power illegitimately do not feel equal to the responsibility they have taken upon themselves. In their hearts they begin to be ashamed, although at first they do not show it outwardly. This marks a turn for the better.

33. TUN / Retreat

above CH’IEN THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN
below KêN KEEPING STILL, MOUNTAIN

The power of the dark is ascending. The light retreats to security, so that the dark cannot encroach upon it. This retreat is a matter not of man’s will but of natural law. Therefore in this case withdrawal is proper; it is the correct way to behave in order not to exhaust one’s forces.
In the calendar this hexagram is linked with the sixth month (July-August), in which the forces of winter are already showing their influence.

THE JUDGMENT

RETREAT. Success.
In what is small, perseverance furthers.

Conditions are such that the hostile forces favored by the time are advancing. In this case retreat is the right course, and it is not to be confused with flight. Flight means saving oneself under any circumstances, whereas retreat is a sign of strength. We must be careful not to miss the right moment while we are in full possession of power and position. Then we shall be able to interpret the signs of the time before it is too late and to prepare for provisional retreat instead of being drawn into a desperate life-and-death struggle. Thus we do not simple abandon the field to the opponent; we make it difficult for him to advance by showing perseverance in single acts of resistance. In this way we prepare, while retreating, for the counter-movement. Understanding the laws of a constructive retreat of this sort is not easy. The meaning that lies hidden in such a time is important.

THE IMAGE

Mountain under heaven: the image of RETREAT.
Thus the superior man keeps the inferior man at a distance,
Not angrily but with reserve.

The mountain rises up under heaven, but owing to its nature it finally comes to a stop. Heaven on the other hand retreats upward before it into the distance and remains out of reach. This symbolizes the behavior of the superior man toward a climbing inferior; he retreats into his own thoughts as the inferior man comes forward. He does not hate him, for hatred is a form of subjective involvement by which we are bound to the hated object. The superior man shows strength (heaven) in that he brings the inferior man to a standstill (mountain) by his dignified reserve.

Published on June 12, 2023 at 6:00 by