Hexagram 50 -- THE CAULDRON

Value haunts my being.
(Jean-Paul Sartre)

As soon as I saw this quotation (in the latest issue of Tin House, a marvelous journal whose latest issue examines democracy -- its nascence, practice, recent battering, and renaissance), I thought, "Hexagram 50!" I'm still not sure why ... but the words haunt me, as value haunts their author.

Hexagrams 50 and 48 (THE WELL) are the only two whose ideograms depict objects of human design. THE WELL represents a fundamental, communal source of nourishment -- water -- and THE CAULDRON represents both a cooking vessel and an alchemical container. In Chinese, a cauldron is known as ding, "a sacred vessel ... in which ritual foods were prepared and cooked during religious ceremonies ... a beautiful piece of art rather than merely a utilitarian device" (Jack Balkin, The Laws of Change).

The hexagram itself consists of fire above wind/wood; through cooking raw materials with sacred intent, transformation occurs; both body and soul are nourished through devotional ritual and by matter that becomes sustenance.

It could be that Hexagram 50 represents fundamental, elemental changes that have been sparked by the REVOLUTION of Hexagram 49. The two hexagrams together suggest a thorough and essential process like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly -- an undoing of what was through calexis (catalytic change), and a transformation or re-creation into an entirely new form or being.

"Value haunts my life," wrote Sartre; what could he have meant? Perhaps he was referring to the process by which we confer meaning to matter and to events. We consecrate experience -- make it sacred -- when we give it meaning. Prior beliefs and philosophies may break down through revolutionary change, leaving a soul unclouded and naked to truth. The alchemical process itself shows us what is possible when we allow our souls to be "cooked" (transformed) through radical reduction and reformation.

What fuels the sacred fire of your soul? What meanings are left to you when elements of your life have been changed beyond recognition?

(Top illustration: artist unknown.)
(Lower illustration: Ayanna Mojica)


Karin said…
I understand why the statement haunts you - since reading it here, hours ago, it hasn't left me!
Value Haunts My Being - the truth of this is so incredibly simple, but it's as if I didn't know it until I came here this morning. As I have lost parts of myself that I value, I have gone through feelings of worthlessness, until re-working and re-framing, and re-membering my value and Truth.
Thank you for giving me this rich statement and the questions you pose at the end to meditate on. My cauldron is definitely full.
Jaliya said…
Karin -- you're welcome :-)

I opened the journal -- Tin House -- while browsing at one of my fave bookstores ... "Value haunts my being" was the first phrase I saw; it *stopped* me. "Value," I immediately knew, had nothing to do with money, social status, or things ... and everything to do with something both definitive and elusive; present and absent; inherent and far beyond my grasp.

Amazing how a combination of four words can lock onto a mind, isn't it ... !

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