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I remember reading about the I Ching in the alternate-history SF novel, The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick. In that novel, the character who consulted the oracle used the yarrow stalk method to determine which entry in the book to apply to the matter at hand. One can also use coins or even dice to speak on behalf of fate and guide the questioner to the answers they seek.

That was before the internet. I don't own a copy of the I Ching. I just Google it and click on the graphical representation of a button. With the click of the mouse, I engage in simulated button pushing which replaces the handling of physical objects. So long as the internet is working and available to me, it is likely to remain my I Ching of choice. I could order a paper version, but that would put another book in orbit around me, increase the clutter in my sight and in my mind, and give me one more thing to keep track of (or, more likely, fail to keep track of).

I consulted the Oracle the day before yesterday, asking it about how I should focus my efforts. The Oracle directed me to hexagram  41, Decreasing, changing to hexagram 19, Nearing (or Approach). I took this to mean that while it appears that my consistent work has lead to stagnating rewards, behind the scenes, developments proceed apace and will soon give way to the Approach, when I find new power and accomplishment as I rise to new challenges, possibly in an effort to help someone else. That's all good news, but I wanted guidance, not divination, and I don't know how to turn this forecast into a prescription for action.

Given that I meet regular deadlines for creative activity that I set for myself, I continue working even when I'm feeling fallow. With the podcast and radio show, I judge myself to be slacking when I seek mainly return guests for the program. I don't have to introduce myself to repeat guests or craft an email that simultaneously communicates my intentions and establishes credibility. Repeat guests are a known quantity. These are people with whom I have an established connection and who I know can provide entertaining or informative conversation. With a new guest, even if they've written something that I enjoyed reading, there's no telling how it will go. In some instances, it's gone so badly that I chose not to use the interview and had to find someone else to interview or fill the hour with just my own thoughts and voice. That latter option is a lot of work, but it's the kind of work that comes from failing to complete some previous task at the right time. Paradoxically, in the phases where I don't think I'm getting much done, I often have to work harder than I do when I'm really killing it.

Both of the hexagrams my most recent consultation brought to my attention focus on the ebb and flow, the rhythmic pulse of advancement and setback, that is the normal condition of living things making their way through life. This makes sense to me. It's not anything I have to coerce myself into entertaining for the sake of the exercise. Even so, it is at odds with the voice of authority which tells me that the universe is a perfect meritocracy and that if I'm not getting anywhere, it's either because I'm not working hard or smart enough. It is in times like these that I take comfort in the words of Thomas Ligotti, who reminds us that there is "nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to be, and no one to know."


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February 2019


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