The Wisdom of the I Ching

12. Inactivity

In a time of Inactivity, the harmony necessary for the creative powers to function properly is not present. Any actions taken will be unproductive and futile. There is a time and a season for all things, and this is not the time for great accomplishments. Nothing seems to work; everything is in disarray. All the forces that promote creative activity are absent. Inferior people are in ascendency, and the superior man is ignored. What is a person to do in such a time? Shall he become a part of the general level of inferior activity? Shall he throw in his lot with everyone else? No! Never! In such a time of decadence and decline, the superior man retires from the current scene. He holds on to his principles and awaits a time that is more conducive to their implementation, when his influence can have some effect.

When inferior people are in ascendency, there is a surge of pointless, meaningless, inane doing that is all display, but has no depth, no significance. The superior man may be invited to participate in this folly, but he declines, no matter how enticing the offer. He knows that he can have no influence on what proceeds. Instead, he can only waste his energies and demean himself. He prefers to work on his own development in solitude rather than waste his substance in pointless pretense. When the time comes that he can be effectual, only then will he emerge and exert himself.

The Lines
1. [6] The superior man encourages associates to retire from the fray as he does. Such a withdrawal at this time promises the opportunity for regrouping and for personal growth and development, whereas continuing with an active struggle will only result in waste and failure.

2. [6] There is no doubt that inferior people would welcome the superior man if he would join with them. But he declines to participate, since he knows that there are no real gains to be made. Inferior people are always searching for something, even if they have insufficient depth to recognize and follow a rightful path.

3. [6] Inferior people begin to recognize the tenuousness of their position, the vacuity of their philosophy. They are embarrassed by their own lack of substance, even if they are still unwilling to acknowledge it openly. This is, at least, a mark of some progress.

4. [9] The time of Inactivity draws to a close. A man who assumes a leadership role on his own authority cannot fulfill the needs of the time. But a man whose activities are in accord with Heaven and with the forces of fate will be able to help many find their rightful path.

5. [9] The time of Inactivity is over. The superior man returns to a position of great influence, but he avoids over-confidence. He does not rely on assumptions of his own powers, hence he is always aware that he may be inadequate for the task. By remaining cautious, however, he is able to succeed.

6. [9] Although the time of Inactivity is over, it does not end without the active contribution of the superior man. Things do not bring order to themselves; someone must furnish the energy and keep the goal in mind in order to lift things to a state of order.


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