#581 Chuck’s Place: Youthful Folly

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy website.

Thank you Michael Moore. Not only have you made a movie of supreme importance and relevance to now, but, because you did it so well, I am freed to write about Youthful Folly rather than have to comment on current events that equally attracted my attention this week. We must become real students of the truth of our beloved America. Everyone, go and see Capitalism: A Love Story! Jan suggests that you bring tissues, lots of them. We traveled a bit to view this movie on its opening day. We thought we might enjoy dinner at our favorite city of Poughkeepsie restaurant, The Busy Bee Cafe, only to discover that, like Flint Michigan, Poughkeepsie reveals the true nature of reality in America: our favorite eatery was empty and boarded up! As we traveled north toward home we decided to stop at Sabroso in Rhinebeck, another favorite place, for delicious tapas. They get it right! On to Youthful Folly.

After deep contemplation of a challenge that I have reckoned with for years, I consulted The I Ching for its perspective on how to approach resolution of this issue. I was a bit taken aback, or should I say my ego self was a bit taken aback, by the reading I received: Youthful Folly, hexagram #4.

I have put in a few years in this current lifetime and my ego would like to think that I have accrued enough wisdom to be beyond the level of inexperienced youth. After assuaging my wounded ego I pondered, in earnest, why I had been presented with this reading. It became apparent to me that Youthful Folly is really the hexagram, the archetype, of the eternal student. No matter how far we have come we remain the inexperienced youth as we approach our deepest challenges or the next challenge awaiting us on the horizon. If there were no more challenges our evolutionary journey would cease, the adventure would be over. Some might consider the end of challenge as bliss, heaven, but for me the adventure must continue.

The hexagram of Youthful Folly is built by the trigram of water below, in the form of a spring, rising within the chasm of the mountain, the trigram above. The hexagram offers the image of an inexperienced youth hesitating, in perplexity, on the brink of this dangerous abyss. The I Ching clarifies that folly, in the youth’s hesitation, is not a function of stupidity, but rather that of immaturity and lack of experience. In his translation of The I Ching, Richard Wilhelm suggests the analogy of Parsifal, the virgin knight of King Arthur’s Round Table who bumbles innocently and naively on his quest for the Holy Grail.

The natural images used to depict the dilemma of Youthful Folly also hint at its resolution: as water rises from the spring in the abyss of the mountain it will, ultimately, completely fill the cavity and then, of necessity, move on. The process of the rising water filling every nook and cranny can be equated with Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. In effect, as we tackle a challenge in life, especially our deepest, we find ourselves going round and round, over the same ground, enacting the same habitual patterns, until, one day, we might awaken, ready to flow with the necessary changes to move beyond Groundhog Day into new life, resolved, detached, relieved of the burden of an unsolved challenge. This process may take years, a lifetime, or several lifetimes. We do have free will to live as many groundhog days as we please, but, ultimately, we will flow beyond the abyss. Ultimately, we will accrue enough experiences, learn our lessons, and allow ourselves to let go and flow with the necessary changes.

The I Ching is one of mankind’s oldest sages and consequently offers the sincere student the most expedient method to traverse the abyss. However, to truly benefit from its counsel the student must have the correct attitude. The I Ching warns:

“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.”
(From the Richard Wilhelm translation, p. 21)

Oracles are living things. Just because they appear static, wholly contained in books or other forms, for centuries, they are not our slaves. If you don’t like your reading and choose to doubt and demand another one, then the oracle responds to the big baby by confounding the coins and delivering an irrelevant response. Hence, The I Ching teaches the student how to be a real student. A real student acknowledges his inexperience and follows the guidance of his teacher. This means relinquishing the inflated ego self and becoming the innocent unknowing child who chooses to explore what is presented.

Do your homework, take action, and see what happens. This does not mean turning over responsibility for one’s journey. However, once one has chosen the right teacher it is time to do the assigned work and discover where it leads. Obsessive questioning and reticence to do the work lead nowhere. Furthermore, each step must be followed, in succession, to completion; no skipping steps allowed, no jumping ahead. ADD is simply not an option here. Discipline the self. Water methodically fills each space, leaving no space unfilled; it is thorough as it rises upward and onward. Be like the rising spring.

The hexagram goes on to offer six more specific points of guidance in the time of the condition of Youthful Folly, which I interpret as follows:

1. Be disciplined. “He who simply plays with life never amounts to anything.” (From the Richard Wilhelm translation, p. 22) Of course, conversely, all work and no play creates the same imbalance, leading to collapse. The mantra here would be: discipline with moderation.

2. Accept that despite the inferiority that you struggle with, which leads to an inability to exert power, your willingness to acknowledge the truth of this inferiority actually empowers you to lead yourself through the learning process, which will ultimately lead to true empowerment. Modesty and perseverance are the operative principles here.

3. Don’t attach to a false persona that portrays mastery, an inflation, masking the underlying inferiority. This does not mean you shouldn’t “fake it till you make it,” but it does insist that you remain aware that faking, in this context, is a task leading to mastery. Don’t believe that you are your persona; know who you are: a student.

4. Don’t deceive yourself with empty imaginings, delusions of specialness, romantic fantasies, and unlimited time. If one attaches to any of these, the teacher will step aside, for a day or a lifetime, as the student plays out the illusion.

5. Only the child may enter the kingdom of heaven. We cannot truly learn and master unless we assume the unknowing innocence of the child as we approach our tasks. We must allow ourselves to ask the silliest of questions and be able to acknowledge that even at this age we simply don’t know such a basic thing that everyone, of course, knows!

6. “He who will not heed will be made to feel.” (From the Richard Wilhelm translation, p. 23) Our stubborn resistance to learning, or our inexperience, will be met with punishments. However, let us greet these outcomes as natural consequences, necessary lessons. Let us avoid the pitfall of negativity and self-hatred. Suspend judgment.

And so, The I Ching’s answer to my query as to how to resolve my challenge: become a real student! Final answer!

As always, should anyone wish to write, I can be reached at: chuck@riverwalkerpress.com or feel free to post a comment.

Until we meet again,

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