This is not the future our childhood cartoons promised us. We’re enslaved by the machines that were supposed to free us, and endangered by the war technique that was supposed to keep us safe. So much for faith in man and progress. As long as we cling to the rational, and refuse to acknowledge the vast collective unconscious, and its effect on every aspect of our conscious lives, we will continue to chase shadows.
Yet we have a tool to communicate with the extra-rational, the Yi Jing. The Yi Jing gives us not answers to our questions but symbols, and by interpreting them, we empower ourselves with intent. The shallow rationalist can scoff, but not until he’s refuted C.G. Jung, who was Isaac Newton divided by Oprah Winfrey, and who spent years translating the Yi Jing, praising it as a supercomputer of synchronicity. So with faith not in man but in change, CEX humbly asks the Book of Changes, the Yi Jing, “Where is China going in 2010?”
Three coins six times are tossed; each time they reveal yin or yang, old or new, a whole or broken line.
Our result – Hexagram 56: Lu, the Wanderer
Each hexagram pronounces a judgment. Lu the Wanderer’s:
We are all wanderers in the Unknown.
Those who travel beside the Sage
are protected from harm.
Amazing. The Yi Jing responds not only to the question but to he who asks. For while every one of us has his life’s journey, the China expat is a stranger in a strange land. Alas that the million Starbucks and students of English convince so many expats otherwise. Too easy to take our new home for a Silk Market knock-off of our old. The fifty-fourth hexagram tells us otherwise, continuing with the interpretation of its image:
Fire on the mountain
The image of the Wanderer
Thus the superior man
Is clear-minded and cautious
In imposing penalties,
And protracts no lawsuits.
Beyond the concept of litigation (a practice far less profitable in China than in the West), Lu the Wanderer is reminding us to proceed as though traveling alone in unfamiliar territory. Attentive, tolerant, and modest, the superior expat will maintain a gentle manner to stay out of harm’s way. No fit-pitching when the waitress brings warm beer, or loudly listing the shortcomings of the “Chinese way” while riding the subway.
But it was on China’s behalf, not just its expats’, that we consulted the Yi Jing. Can China view itself as a wanderer in unfamiliar territory? How could it not? From sick man to introverted revolutionary, to Mandarin capitalist in a mere century is enough to make the historical head spin. And when else in its five thousand years, no matter how prosperous or advanced, has China been such a locus of global attention? Still working into a major role on the world stage, China might heed the thespian’s advice not to act so much as react, and leave the scenery-chewing to those desperate for applause.
Can the tolerance and modesty that mark the wise wanderer also benefit the nation on unfamiliar ground? Hey, at CEX we’re just culture-mongers, and wouldn’t presume to geo-political expertise. We’ll just refer again to the sages, who advise those with ambition, “Do not drag out disagreements with others; conflict is a prison that grows more dangerous every moment you are in it. Do not depart from the path of humility and correct conduct; in doing so, you lose the protection of the Deity and risk misfortune.” Anyone care to gainsay Confucius?
But we want specifics when consulting the divine, not just humdrum watch-your-step admonitions. Time to take our hexagram line by line.
If the wanderer busies himself with trivial things,
He draws down misfortune upon himself.
Nothing more trivial and time-wasting than worrying about what other people think of you, eh? Imagine what that army of IT experts could accomplish if they weren’t busy blocking websites all the livelong day.
The wanderer comes to an inn.
He has his property with him.
He wins the steadfastness of a young servant.
The public house is no place for envy or ostentation. Does China really need 20,000 new cars a day, or would she be better served by more electric buses? Will that umpteenth international brand mega-mall impress the people more than some new affordable housing would? Wimpy or not, sustainability smacks of both Dao and correct principles, and is the area in which to win over all the young greenies who could prove most useful in the future.
The wanderer’s inn burns down.
He loses the steadfastness of his young servant.
Easy now, this is just one line signifying the possible. The inn and servant are simply metaphors, in this case used to show that when egos run unchecked, the opportunity for influence is eclipsed. Real Casanovas don’t kiss and tell, and Clint Eastwood wore an old poncho over his lightning-fast guns. Self-promoting as the next world power is tacky at best, and worse, feeds the paranoia of real imperialists.
The wanderer rests in a shelter.
He obtains his property and an ax.
My heart is not glad.
There’s a time to expand your markets and print money, and a time to retrench, to sharpen the ax and hack out a new pile of resources with which to wax prosperous later on. The sage isn’t happy, but he isn’t sad; neither has China cause to be, just determined and unperturbed.
He shoots a pheasant.
It drops with the first arrow.
In the end this brings both praise and office.
Another metaphor to reveal that a wanderer who clings to truth and humility will inevitably be showered with blessings. But it’s a Chinese metaphor, so of course there is a double meaning. The pheasant is a symbol of flamboyant male sexuality. Let’s leave the elaborate coiffures and precious little handbags to the ladies, men of China.
The bird’s nest burns up.
The wanderer laughs at first,
Then must needs lament and weep.
Through carelessness he loses his cow.
For those who think we’re just getting creative with that “bird’s nest” part, we’re not. It joins all, synchronicity does. So what are we doing with that half-billion dollar empty nest now that the patter of Usain Bolt’s sneakers is just a distant memory? What’s the opportunity cost in potential cash cows China could now be milking with both hands? We’re not ones to say “I told you so,” but we are ones to say “Confucius told you so”, specifically, “If you make improper use of abundance, misfortune results. Pride towards others fells your own roof and leaves you in the rain.”