Strive to end the folly in others and yourself. Hold the vision of what destiny looks like.
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4 – Four Mêng / Inexperience
A fresh Spring at the foot of the Mountain:
The Superior Person refines his character by being thorough in every activity.
The Sage does not recruit students; the students seek him.
He asks nothing but a sincere desire to learn.
If the student doubts or challenges his authority, the Sage regretfully cuts his losses.
This is a time of interchange between a mentor and pupil.
Whether you are the teacher or the student, it is a time of companionship along a mutual path.
This hexagram also emphasizes the eternal, cyclical nature of the mentor/student relationship — a mentor is merely a more seasoned pupil, further along on the journey.
A pupil holds within himself the seed of a future Master.
IN THIS HEXAGRAM we are reminded of youth and folly1 in two different ways. The image of the upper trigram, Kên, is the mountain, that of the lower, K’an, is water; the spring rising at the foot of the mountain is the image of inexperienced youth. Keeping still (52) is the attribute of the upper trigram; that of the lower is the abyss (29), danger. Stopping in perplexity on the brink of a dangerous abyss is a symbol of the folly of youth. However, the two trigrams also show the way of overcoming the follies of youth. Water is something that of necessity flows on. When the spring gushes forth, it does not know at first where it will go. But its steady flow fills up the deep place blocking its progress, and success is attained.
Youthful folly has success.
It is not I who seek the young fool;
The young fool seeks me.
At the first oracle I inform him.
If he asks two or three times, it is importunity.
If he importunes, I give him no information.
IN THE TIME OF youth, folly is not an evil. One may succeed in spite of it, provided one finds an experienced teacher and has the right attitude toward him. This means, first of all, that the youth himself must be conscious of his lack of experience and must seek out the teacher. Without this modesty and this interest there is no guarantee that he has the necessary receptivity, which should express itself in respectful acceptance of the teacher. This is the reason why the teacher must wait to be sought out instead of offering himself. Only thus can the instruction take place at the right time and in the right way.
A teacher’s answer to the question of a pupil ought to be clear and definite like that expected from an oracle; thereupon it ought to be accepted as a key for resolution of doubts and a basis for decision. If mistrustful or unintelligent questioning is kept up, it serves only to annoy the teacher. He does well to ignore it in silence, just as the oracle gives one answer only and refuses to be tempted by questions implying doubt. Given in addition a perseverance that never slackens until the points are mastered one by one, real success is sure to follow. Thus the hexagram counsels the teacher as well as the pupil.
Flathead River at Old West Glacier Bridge, Montana
Credit: Glacier National Park Service [Public Domain]
A spring wells up at the foot of the mountain:
The image of YOUTH.
Thus the superior man fosters his character
By thoroughness in all that he does.
A SPRING succeeds in flowing on and escapes stagnation by filling up all the hollow places in its path. In the same way character is developed by thoroughness that skips nothing but, like water, gradually and steadily fills up all gaps and so flows onward.
1. [“Fool” and “folly” as used in this hexagram should be understood to mean the immaturity of youth and its consequent lack of wisdom, rather than mere stupidity. Parsifal is known as the “pure fool” not because he was dull-witted but because he was inexperienced.]