Oppression ... and its undoing. (Hexagram 47)
Thoreau said it most succinctly:
"The masses of men lead lives of quiet desperation."
We can be slaves to a regime -- to whatever institution it may be; we can lose our autonomy to an illness or injury; we can get hooked on a person, a belief, a substance, a rutted, mindless habit -- locked in and loaded up with whatever is ours -- not to claim, but to endure. Some poison is locked and loaded upon us -- aiming to kill.
"... the wonder is that people who have been broken like sparrows caught by a cat's claw should find three strengths: the strength to go on living, the strength to continue their search for [Love], and the strength to reach out to others, to give and receive compassion." (Dame Julian of Norwich)
At the very least, many of us experience the endless-workday oppression of time; as Mary Rose O'Reilley wrote, "Time oppresses me. I crawl to God across the face of a clock." She was crawling until a brief conversation in a barn became a vocational immersion into sheep farming -- a complete change at every level of being into a wholly new way of living.
If there's a hell, it's in the cruelty we humans inflict on others, ourselves, and Creation. It's said that some First Nations people were asked by an anthropologist what they called America before its Caucasian colonization. Their reply: "Ours."
When we enslave ourselves, we're wed to a habit that houses a regime that wants to crush us.
Whatever we do to ourselves, we do to others ... Whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves ... and so it goes. Until.
Until we realize that we are like olives: only when we are crushed do we yield what is best in us.
This wisdom comes from the Talmud ... and I can only say that I hope it doesn't always take a crushing to yield the sweetest nectar -- !
Turns out it doesn't. Robert A. Johnson, a devoted student and scholar of Carl Jung, understood that "exhaustion is ... sometimes the best tool for enlightenment, as it gets the ego out of the way. It finally just wears down so that the divine can pour through." Sometimes exhaustion means, Enough of this now. Something new wants to be born through the ruptures that have carved into your life ...
The divine pours through an artist I've come to know online. Her name is Karin Bartimole, and she's known in her bones, through long illness, both crushing oppression and the outpouring of nectar from her wounds. She lays out her whole soul in her creations, roams the entire range of human experience. Sometimes, her offerings look like this:
... at other times, she soars:
... and often, she remains close to the center of things, holding to life, breath, and colour ...
Karin's blog has become a daily touchstone for me and for many other people. Her art is exquisite ... her character, perpetually generous and kind.
She models the renewal that is always possible -- and inevitable -- no matter our circumstances. (Think Nelson Mandela's 27 years in prison ... and then his ascendance to being Prime Minister of South Africa.) As Jack Balkin, author of The Laws of Change: I Ching and the Philosophy of Life, writes in his commentary for Hexagram 47: "Periods of oppression and exhaustion contain the seeds of regeneration and renewal. At the very darkest moment the light is almost ready to shine again." If, as the oracle suggests, we persevere with devotion through mire and darkness, we will experience regeneration. An illness may not be cured; an imprisonment will not immediately end; an addiction will not magically dissolve. A mind that admits light, though, will conquer despair. If there is any boon to oppression, it comes through carving out a character that will survive any hardship; new light eventually laps at every horizon.
Top and bottom illustrations: artists unknown ... and thanked.
All other art by Karin Bartimole.