...the force of the small--the power of the shadowy--that restrains, tames, impedes...
...a configuration of circumstances in which a strong element is temporarily held in leash by a weak element. It is only through gentleness that this can have a successful outcome...
...The situation is not unfavorable; there is a prospect of ultimate success, but there are still obstacles in the way, and we can merely take preparatory measures. Only through the small means of friendly persuasion can we exert any influence. The time has not yet come for sweeping measures...
...an individual, in times when he can produce no great effect in the outer world, can do nothing except refine the expression of his nature in small ways...
...the power of disinterested truth is greater than all ... obstacles. It carries such weight that the end is achieved, and all ... fear disappear[s]... (excerpts from Richard Wilhelm's and Cary F. Baynes translation "I Ching: Or, Book of Changes")
Carlton's reference was timely. Yesterday, beneath the weight of accumulated frustration, I collapsed into a tirade. The situation was precisely as the I Ching describes--"a strong element ... temporarily held in leash by a weak element"-- with me as the weak element. I was anything but "disinterested" and my "unrefined" expression only served to produce fear and disapproval in most of the witnesses.
The concept of "seeing the big picture" has also come up in recent conversations. In the various gatherings of people engaged in the Gulf Coast recovery, impassioned speakers often take the floor to advocate for their point of view. We are like the proverbial blind men standing around an elephant, each touching a different part of the great beast and taking it to define the whole. For a variety of understandable reasons, we lose sight of the larger picture, the larger story in which we are all players.
Within minutes of leaving the scene of my explosion, my perspective on the situation broadened and I recognized that I had "done it again": blindly clinging to the part of the elephant closest to me, I hurled my vehemence.
We swing back and forth along a continuum of sightedness: one moment suffused with epiphanous insight, in the next we begin the gradual slide toward blind ignorance. And Ego guides us to staunch inflexibility at every point between these poles. Awakening to the inescapable limitations of our point of view is an aspect of transcendence; maintaining this awareness promotes evolution of consciousness--my own and the greater Consciousness that breathes all life, what I think of as The One Story or The Big Picture.
My own ability to stay focused and responsive to the Big Picture seems to diminish the longer I am in direct relationship with people or places. Intimacy and familiarity seem to behave somewhat like narcotics where consciousness and cognition are concerned. The longer I know a person or place, the more likely I am to become focused on "small pictures," to take things personally, to obsess or drone on particularities.
An arguable blessing is the capacity to remember, to step back (or "out"...or "up"....) into an awareness of the inescapable limitations of my perspective--a capacity eternally compromised by Ego. Sometimes I remember on my own. This is not precisely true: always there is the Big Hand, the ancestors, the deep-running "still waters" of Mystery guiding and inspiring me into wholeness. And even while intimacy and familiarity sometimes produce psychic dullness or short-sightedness, often enough I find a reminder or encouragement toward a return to wholeness in interaction with familiar others.
We are a symphony, each playing our part. Through our impassioned focus--oboe and cello and drum, violin, cymbal and bassoon--the marvelous, elaborate composition is expressed. Song of the universe, song of Time. The unique harmonies and vibrations of Life, from Forever to Now to Tomorrow -- a cosmic chorus that holds, informs and sustains us all.
When experience is viewed through an egocentric filter, we fall out of rhythmic, harmonic and melodic alignment with the great song. We hear cacophony and mistakenly believe it comes from outside ourselves but in fact the dissonance originates in our myopic subjectivity.
How do we avoid this straying? Or, if it is impossible to completely avoid it, how do we find our way back to harmony.
We touch the tail or hoof or tusk of the elephant and integrate our learning on that level. We know what we know. And we remember we are blind. We listen. To the voices within and the voices beyond. To the song within and the surrounding song. And then beyond that to the Song into which all songs flow. We feel our song flowing into the Song. And we remember we are blind.