Some weeks back I wrote about a situation at a client of mine where division and conflict were destroying the organisation. These conflicts have now fully played out to the point where the two offices involved are splitting apart amidst much rancour and mistrust. Everyone feels it is everyone else’s fault and blame and misunderstanding is rife. It is a painful situation for everyone, agony indeed.
The conclusion that most of the people involved have come to is that it is too late now and nothing can be done; that it has gone too far and the broken trust cannot be rebuilt.
Recently among my friends we have been discussing the painful nature of life, no doubt prompted by the current Neptune Chiron conjunction. My friend Chrissy asked the I-Ching about whether life had to be so painful. She had been to watch La Traviata in which the heroine is dying of consumption and in which tragedy and suffering abound. Despite this, the beauty of the opera is exquisite; the combination of orchestra, singing, drama is stunning and the ability of human brains to produce such beauty and complexity is testament to the brilliance of our evolution. The audience was transported. When Chrissy threw the I-Ching she received Enthusiasm and the second, third and top lines of Youthful Folly in a situation of Enthusiasm. The lines read as follows:
° Nine in the second place means: To bear with fools in kindliness brings good fortune. To know how to take women Brings good fortune. The son is capable of taking charge of the household. These lines picture a man who has no external power, but who has enough strength of mind to bear his burden of responsibility. He has the inner superiority and that enable him to tolerate with kindliness the shortcomings of human folly. The same attitude is owed to women as the weaker sex. One must understand them and give them recognition in a spirit of chivalrous consideration. Only this combination of inner strength with outer reserve enables one to take on the responsibility of directing a larger social body with real success. Six in the third place means: Take not a maiden who. When she sees a man of bronze, Loses possession of herself. Nothing furthers. A weak, inexperienced man, struggling to rise, easily loses his own individuality when he slavishly imitates a strong personality of higher station. He is like a girl throwing herself away when she meets a strong man. Such a servile approach should not be encouraged, because it is bad both for the youth and the teacher. A girl owes it to her dignity to wait until she is wooed. In both cases it is undignified to offer oneself, and no good comes of accepting such an offer.
Nine at the top means: In punishing folly It does not further one To commit transgressions. The only thing that furthers Is to prevent transgressions. Sometimes an incorrigible fool must be punished. He who will not heed will be made to feel. This punishment is quite different from a preliminary shaking up. But the penalty should not be imposed in anger; it must be restricted to an objective guarding against unjustified excesses. Punishment is never an end in itself but serves merely to restore order. This applies not only in regard to education but also in regard to the measures taken by a government against a populace guilty of transgressions. Governmental interference should always be merely preventive and should have as its sole aim the establishment of public security and peace.
So what is the I-Ching telling us here about the nature of Life and suffering? The second line suggests that Life thinks we are ready to take charge – that we are capable of taking responsibility and should show consideration towards the mistakes and follies of others – that it wants us to have compassion. It is interesting to note here that we could not have compassion without suffering – that these two are linked. Perhaps this is what we are learning under a Neptune-Chiron transit: that somehow our suffering is Grace – I will return to this theme. So it thinks we are capable of taking responsibility and bearing gently with suffering caused by the mistakes of others; this sounds very different from blame.
In the second line it talks about the danger of having illusions, of looking to others to take responsibiltiy, that this isn’t a game where we are allowed to pass the responsibility to others – to unconsciously rely on some higher power. It is also suggests that we have got to work this out for ourselves – to do the job of working to become more conscious and take responsibility for ourselves. It also suggests that any pre-conceived ideas are dangerous. As Chrissy and my wife were speculating – why is the game like a mystery without any guidelines, where we have work out each step of the way without prior instructions?
The top line, Chrissy suggested, seemed to be telling us that the point of suffering was not to punish us or hurt us per se but to help us learn. So that whilst it is painful for us, would we learn any other way, that it is not cruel or malicious but simply correctional. All of this was in a situation of Enthusiasm. In Enthusiasm it says that “it furthers one to install helpers and set armies marching”. Enthusiasm also talks about music as having a profound effect in clearing away obscure emotions and bringing people together in a unity of the heart. So it seems to be suggesting that we are meant to helping each other and that there is a music at play through our hearts which unites us all. At the same time it talks about the movement of the heavenly spheres and the fact that there are natural laws and patterns at work that if we understand them, allow us to bring everyone together and release the creative forces of the universe. It is like a game and the I-Ching is saying it is up to us to discover the laws or patterns of the game and that in doing so we will be able to release the music of the spheres.
Is it possible that with this current Neptune-Chiron conjunction in Pisces there is a chance to transform or transcend the way we currently see suffering? Certainly there have been a number of instances recently which have provided an opportunity to examine the nature of suffering and blame. The recent bus crash in France which killed so many children, the sinking of the cruise ship off the coast of Italy and the on-going war in Afghanistan.
A recent article in the New Scientist reviewed the recent research on the brain in order to question whether we are truly responsible for our actions. This prompted many worrying questions for our judicial system, yet, in the context of the pain of life, it raises an interesting perspective. What if no-one is to blame? The top line of the I-Ching suggested that the role of pain is corrective – ie. it’s motive is learning not punishment.
Let me digress for a short while to discuss the planetoid Chiron about which I am waxing so lyrical. Chiron is the wounded healer and, as I have written about in previous blogs, seems to be about The Black Hole Game (cf. One Way of Looking at Man by Chrissy Philp), ie. the game of life – that we fall in black holes which are painful but which cause us to give up inaccurate pictures of life and to learn and evolve. It seems that it is only through the imperfection of life (and the suffering it causes), that we learn. I watched a programme recently about a young girl in the United States who had a syndrome where she felt no pain. When they were interviewing the parents, they asked them what the hardest part was and it was fascinating to note that they said it wasn’t the horrendous injuries she had suffered – they showed pictures of horrific burns, cuts and breaks – but the fact she could not learn because there was no consequence to her actions and therefore no link between her actions and emotions. Now this is fascinatingly paradoxical. Here was a little girl who did not experience pain and yet our hearts went out to her – we felt sad for a little girl who suffered no pain because it was so painful…! At the same time, I recognise that were it not for the pain (non-pain) of her situation, I would not have learnt so much.
If we go back to the situations that are causing pain at the moment, I noticed how quickly we condemn the captain of the cruise ship that ran aground. A brilliant article in one of the national newspapers that I read shortly after the condemnation of the captain picked up on this theme of blame. The author pointed out how quick we are to adopt a self-righteous tone and to blame the captain. Implicit in this is the assumption that we would never behave in this way and yet, as he pointed out, which of us has not committed acts of bravado which we later regretted, which of us has not on a small daily level, run away from some mistake we made or failed to take responsibility for it? Could we have compassion for the Captain – which of us would swap shoes with him? Whatever the punishment in terms of prison we might devise it cannot be as bad as the knowledge of having caused so many deaths. Today there were reports of soldier having left his barracks in Afghanistan and shot eighteen civillians. We can easily condemn such actions, but we should rather ask ourselves how we come to put people into such a painful situation that they might commit such an act and cause such suffering for others? In this there might be both learning and kindness or compassion. Then perhaps, we can be the young son taking charge.
It seems with the “too late” refrain that we do not realise that we have the power to transform suffering to turn it into grace. This morning, my wife and I argued furiously, it seemed initially that we could not understand each other and that the situation was impossible with both accusing and blaming each other. Yet as we fought and wrestled with the situation, we reached a breakthrough and suddenly the love that we felt and the insights we gained seemed worth all the pain of the initial fight and our connection seemed deeper than ever. I am indebted to my daughter India and to Chrissy for helping me to understand the meaning and application of the myth of Eriskigal in this context. In the myth of Erishkigal, she is in grief over the death of her husband and Innana (her sister) goes down to see her in the underworld. Being somewhat wary, she advises her friends to ask the god of wisdom (Enki) to help her if they have not heard from her. She is killed by her sister and her friends petition Enki who sends down mourners to empathise with Erishkigal in her suffering. After being empathised with and having others mourn with her, Erishkigal then heals her sister back to life. What I could see in the situation at my client was that everyone was desperate to act to resolve the situation but it was not action that was needed it was empathy. This would have transformed the situation. It was true that it was too late to act, but it was perfect timing for compassion and understanding. Have we evolved enough to recognise that no-one is to blame – that it is all part of the game and there really isn’t anyone to blame. I think we could begin that now.