The Wisdom of the I Ching

38. Working With Opposition

The active forces are in direct opposition to one another. All opposites have a common relationship, otherwise they would be merely disparate, but not opposite. Opposition implies contrasting views of the same thing. Because of this opposition of viewpoints, it is not possible to pursue activities that require cooperation and coordination. Different viewpoints mean people are not able to work together, hence difficult and complex projects may not be undertaken. Nevertheless, the very fact that commonality does exist means that some minor understandings can be reached, and some small improvements may be made. But if one attempts to forge ahead with the accomplishment of something big, it will surely end in failure.

In some situations, opposition is a necessary part of the endeavor. As often happens, opposing forces can result in the creation of something new that results from their combination. Thus, management and labor produce manufactured goods. Opposing political forces produce compromises under which huge numbers of people can live. Criticism and debate often produce a better understanding of truth. Not all opposition represents unproductive conflict. Differences that represent opposition provide a basis for understanding the internal organization of complex phenomena. Thus, the effects of light and dark help in understanding plant growth. Upholding differences is important if the integrity of distinct phenomena is to be maintained. In this way, a superior man may associate with inferior men if he retains his own character and does not adopt their inferior ways.

The Lines
1. [9] Opposition cannot be eliminated by force, because that only causes the opposition to become indignant and entrenched. Given time, a person of good intent will gradually come around and accept areas of small agreement. Similarly, persons of evil intent, if endured, will gradually lose interest and go away. However, neither will respond to force, except to become more difficult.

2. [9] When opposition causes persons to divide irreconcilably on an issue of mutual concern, no direct action can help. But a casual meeting, devoid of intent, may lead to the beginning of an agreement if, indeed, both parties have a need for one another.

3. [6] If first attempts at reconciling the opposition result in humiliating rejection, one should not despair. Dedication and loyalty in the face of it all will be rewarded, and the problems will eventually be resolved.

4. [9] When a person is absolutely alone in the stand he has taken, he will not be able to make any progress. But if he meets a kindred spirit who will side with and support him, he should by all means join forces with him. With such a helper on whom to test his ideas, he can make progress and avoid making mistakes.

5. [6] Isolated by opposition, a man builds an impenetrable wall around himself for protection. But anyone who will take the trouble to break through that wall in order to pledge support is surely someone who can be trusted. The man makes no mistakes when he agrees to join forces with such a helper.

6. [9] A man becomes paranoid when he is beset by widespread opposition. He misjudges even the good intentions of potential supporters and is suspicious of all friendly acts. But this is error, and when he realizes it, he can welcome the help and rejoice in the support his stand has attracted.


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