Cockcrow penetrating to heaven. Perseverance brings misfortune. (line 6 of Hexagram 61 of the I Ching, “Inner Truth”)
When I received this line of the I Ching the other day, its blunt candor struck me in a very personal way. I write here with the purpose of provoking an awakening whose potential lies at the very core of our character as these oddly self-aware vessels of cosmic consciousness, however obscure or even impossible that potential may otherwise appear.
But it is possible, even common, to push the most salubrious stimulant too far and hard. In Nature’s realm, of course, the rooster does not become anxious when there is little or no awakening in response to his morning cries; he just crows until it is time to stop. There are other tasks in the day awaiting his presence.
This is a lesson that I, and perhaps many others in our culture, need to give a deeper and fuller attention. The cry of awakening needs silence to complement and thereby reinforce it; otherwise it becomes a mere din, an invitation to isolation, even to disaster. Every call to awakening must be suffused with the silence of wonder and the music of love, else it becomes the ponderous drone of the priest amid the creaking of the wooden pews beneath the bored weight of the slumbering congregation.
Wonder is the ground of respect, which in turn is the cornerstone of love. This is one reason why I make no difference between the psychological and the spiritual: they are not distinctive spheres of inner or personal experience, but rather comprise a field of feeling relationship in which the individual and the social merge and harmonize. What I am and where I am are merely two aspects of the same organism.
The crucial point here is that every relationship starts inside you: wonder, respect, love — these are not external phenomena that you must conquer or abandon or replace. They are members of your own inner family; players on a stage where the drama, like all great art, is both deeply personal and at the same time universal — yet it cannot be shared out-there until it is consummated in-here; within the solitary heart of uniqueness.
To experience this play of interdependence between the relationships within us and those that form around us is to breathe the fresh air of sanity. But many of us are trained to skip that initial step of relationship: we seek to command and control others before we’ve even examined, let alone corrected, ourselves. I feel certain that if we can learn to perceive and then clarify the relationships going on within us, that the impulse toward command-and-control in our outer relationships will then be burned clean from our being under that light of self-understanding. If we are no longer at war within ourselves, there will be a lot less fighting out-there as well. This principle applies to families, lovers, spouses, races, genders, and nations.
This is equally important to all facets of life, including work, which we ordinarily think of as utterly divorced from the rest of our “personal” lives. One of the primary errors made in our workplaces and academic institutions involves a loss or repression of wonder. I am convinced that this is one of the reasons why science is so indifferently perceived among the general public; and here the exception proves the rule: when a scientist actually embraces a sense of wonder at the universe and lets it guide his work, the public tend to respond enthusiastically. Consider the recent popularity of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s renewal of Sagan’s Cosmos series on TV.
But wonder has been actively repressed in Western science since the Enlightenment; and has been in some scientific quarters positively banished since the 19th century. Even as discovery now points us well beyond the mutely mechanical vision of the universe; far past the billiard ball banalities of adolescent science; still we cling to the linear, the oppressively automatic model and its brutishly myopic vision of objects bouncing around in empty space.
But it has been known for so long (and can be known again) that inside and out; self and other; wonder and reason; are different faces of a single coin, emanations from the same quantum field. This, of course, is why I study and practice the I Ching, for that is the ground of its philosophy, its view of the universe and humanity’s place in it. So the secret of a successful life becomes suddenly obvious and simple — to hold or at least touch the coin, without a thought of one side being bigger or better than the other.
To dwell within such a realization means doing nothing more complex or demanding than merely watching your own mind. To imagine that a regular practice of thought-watching is difficult or strange or impossible is, in my opinion, to indulge one of the most destructive and self-limiting illusions of the modern era and its dominant cultures. It is, as the Zen people say, to put legs on a snake; or in our own vernacular, tits on a boar hog.
That is, we tend to place certain attributes onto activities like meditation or psychological self-examination — attributes that Nature constantly exposes as so many lies. One job of inner work, in fact, is to strip away these rags of belief to reveal our true selves in their sublime psychological nudity. When the image drops away from us, so does the fear that feeds it. This is when we learn to live in fullness, from the center of each moment outward. No attainment or buildup or learning is necessary to this process; only the courage and the commitment to undress — to stop and examine ourselves regularly, and to discard the excess that we find.
Thus, the rooster does not ask when the time is right to cease his morning’s shouting to his world. He just stops, and goes on to all the other tasks and joys of his life. I now hear, more clearly than ever, the rooster’s silence. I will follow it to see where it might lead me.