Thursday, April 19, 2012

What is peace? (hexagram 11)

Is peace a quiet state?  Most of us think of it that way, as an absence of conflict.  And surely some types of peace are related to quietude and harmony.

China and the Chinese peoples had experienced very little peace at the time of the creation of the core text of the Changes, when the Zhou Dynasty replaced the Shang. Ensuing centuries also saw far more wars, on the frontiers and within the state, than times of unity.  Perhaps that is why the Chinese language has many words for peace, not just one.  English does not make it easy to distinguish between them.

The Peace (Hexagram 11) that is described in the Zhouyi is not necessarily a quiet state, since the image of it is Earth above Sky:

Earth and sky interact: the image of peace.
Thus the queen guides the natural forces of both sky and earth, assisting them into harmony by gathering the people to her right and left. (93)

These words suggest that those who assembled the Changes recognized interaction as essential to true peace. And interaction is impossible to avoid when high and low are just where we do not expect them to be.  This kind of peace is not comfortable or easy to navigate.  It forces us to recognize that change is natural, normal, and perpetual.  Nature itself has constant patterns:  autumn follows summer, spring follows winter.  But these great constants are constantly varied and never fully predictable.

In the same way, real learning is unpredictable.  It does not always arrive in a classroom, from a person designated as a teacher.  Instead, possibilities for learning arrive daily, often in the form of irritations which challenge us to revise our preconceptions and force us to adapt to the world as it is, not as we wish it were.

1 comment:

  1. In my experience, people who recognize that change is natural, normal and inevitable are the most peaceful. They are ready for the unpredictable nature of real learning.