Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Consulting the I Ching

The itching of mosquito bites on my ankles. Her next to me ripping out the staples holding embroidery to its backing. My finger's bled blood coagulating. The Qing dynasty period drama playing on the iPad. The medicinal cupping marks on my back pressing into the sofa. The honks from down on Jiangnan Xi road. The last crumbs of a colleagues biscuits melting from between my teeth. And the lingering tipsiness of the Four Specials in my blood.

There are moments and then there are moments. Today has been the most testing of days since I bid working life farewell temporarily. There have been 101 little processes to jump through since my passport and bank card were stolen. I still don't have my hands on my own money. I could get that within 7 days provided I had my passport in my hands at that time. I won't. In 7 days my passport will be sitting on a visa officer's desk for 7 working days. It's a mystery how these things can't be done faster than seven days. My money is in the bank but for procedural reasons my bank card can't be issued within 7 days. And the visa, I've had many, can't be done within 7 working days because that's how long they say it takes. Bureaucrats don't exceed the expectation here - they're paid to meet them and only that. 7 days is an interesting number because that is how long it took for me to get a new New Zealand passport, including postage to and from New Zealand and processing time at the end. The contrast is stark.

Someone just died in the period drama on the iPad (甄嬛传, if you must ask). You can't have missed it - dying people have blood dribbling out of their mouth. Someone poisoned the emperor's daughter-in-law. All poisonings and serious kungfu blows require blood to come out of the mouth to indicate that something has happened. It's a convention of TV dramas and the kungfu novels I read. I feel like I haven't felt much through and after this instance of thievery but I know the sheer frustration of bureaucracy isn't just felt by me. Blood is being spat.

Before she had a sherry and I had some Four Specials, I grabbed some coins and consulted the I Ching (易经). That doesn't sound like me, does it? I Ching is usually classified as divination - foretelling the future - but perhaps it's deeper and more realistic than that. I'd heard of the I Ching long ago and turned my nose up at it more often than I turned it down. A friend and colleague gave an I Ching book to me at my farewell and said that the next we meet we could talk about it. Well, we've already met incidentally - perhaps that wasn't divined at the time of giving - and we're yet to talk about it.  But it's worth talking about.

You toss some coins, or some yarrow stalks if you have them around, you form a hexagram (6 lines, either complete or broken) and from that you read one of 64 possible permutations. But if you expect the future spelled out for you you're in for disappointment: each prognostication is deeper and more arcane than Nostradamus's quatrains. But then again that's perhaps the truth of it all: Life is textured and arcane.

The voice of doubt above is very much of my life and views before. I can't say I've read it much now with any doubt, only interest and introspection. There is not such thing as a lucky hexagram. All have risk and promise; there is no one approach in life, our approach should change with circumstance (challenging us to change and not be fixed); and sometimes it requires some direction to take action confidently. 

She drew a "Biting Through"; I drew a "Ding" (a traditional three-footed pot). I could relate hers to her more than perhaps she could. And I'm the stable three-footed pot, which even when tipped, tips out the worst and keeps the best. 

She's taken out the embroidery. Apparently no-one died in the drama and the sherry has been finished. If there is one thing that can be foretold is that waves ease, winds pass and the drunk sober up.  

No comments: