04 – youthful folly

Graphic hexagram 04Hexagram 04 – youthful folly is auspicious, the judgement states: “Youthful folly has success…” But that only is true as long as we follow the path of the DAO, the way of the world – rather than to forcing our way onto the world. Or, as most usual, hand control over to our autopilot: unconscious control mechanisms and automated action patterns that may have had validity long time ago but that may be meaningless here and now.

So everything back to square one! Curious, unprejudiced, beginner’s mind (Shoshin)… Sounds simple, requires a lot of courage, is a high art. Because…  our usual fears exist. It’s not enough that the path lights up in front of us – we also have to (want to) walk it. Because sometimes it simply deviates blatantly from what we are used to doing, from what is familiar to us and feels safe.

Right, we have already learned a few lessons in our lives, taken a wrong turn and ended up in dead ends. Nobody wants to repeat all that (so much for the beginner’s mind).  But…  Maybe take a short break? Sit down, calm down, have a fresh look at what is actually there, in front of us? And then… give ourselves to the world in  youthful folly…? :)

Scope of Questions

Some users shared with me the questions they had asked the I Ching. Here an example, below two case studies.

  • One user asks: “Where exactly do I stand in my life field (which I understand as an energetic matrix)? He has been dealing with these kinds of questions for a long time (“Where do I come from? Why did I choose or get this life?”), but what he lacked so far was a guide to practical action.
Case Study

A user asks the I Ching the following question: “What should I do to change / improve my financial situation?” The I Ching answers her with Hexagram 04 – youthful folly.

External situations are a mirror of our inner moods. The apparently unsatisfactory external financial situation the user experiences, reflects her inner condition, her roots that determine her reality.
Our internal control mechanisms operate unconsciously. With our waking awareness, our intellect, we usually cannot directly access or at least clearly perceive them. But there are ways to capture our inner impulses: by carefully giving in to them and allowing them to manifest in the material world while watching closely.
Constantly impulses from our inner roots penetrate to the surface and manifest themselves as actions. That happens mostly relatively automatically, without our consciousness being aware of it. We are like a passenger in a vehicle that runs on autopilot.
In many cases this is quite good. Our consciousness remains free for the really important. However, sometimes our autopilot develops malfunctions which then can lead to negative results – such as a bad financial situation. In such a case it makes sense to diligently scrutinize the mechanism of impulse → action → result (= KanZhenKun) . In the specific example of the user one might well ask: “What happens when you have money?” Or: “How do you usually handle lucrative offers to make money?”
If we carefully observe our automated action patterns, we can sometimes recognize automatisms that had validity long time ago, but that are, here and now, meaningless. Ideally we release such old and outdated patterns: Gen, the mountain.

Basically, Hexagram 04 – youthful folly is the invitation to trial and error: curious, open-minded, full of beginners mind (Shoshin). Sounds simple, requires a lot of courage, is high art.

Another Case Study

A user has the following question: “I wrote a letter to my ex-girlfriend, she just answered it briefly by mail. Then I wrote her another letter, which she did not respond to. I asked the I Ching regarding the further development of the situation between me and my ex-girlfriend, in case I did not write her any more letters, as long as she does not get back to me. The I Ching’s answer was 04 – youthful folly.”

Hexagram 04 – youthful folly  begins with Kan, the water, as lower trigram. The upper trigram is Gen, the mountain. Water that collects in a mountain becomes a fountain, therefore the image a fountain/spring, referred to by classical texts on hexagram 04 – youthful folly.
Fountain is just one condition of water besides many others: streamlet, creek, stream, river, sea, mist, cloud, rain. Water symbolizes a consistent circular motion. Running water is good, stagnant water is not. Water in a fountain/spring, the hexagram’s image, is not stagnant but in a condition that soon will transform into a new physical state. What is special about water in a fountain/spring is that it has many options to choose its path.
This explains the name of the hexagram: youthful folly. Just as water in a source, (more or less young) man has many options to choose his path And because he – like water in a source – lacks a comprehensive overview, folly here stands for inexperience, and ideally the insight: “I have no clue regarding the right path.”
How can we find out where our journey will lead us to? Quite simply by looking inwardly, by listening to our own inner impulses (Kan, the water, linking us back to our own primordial ground) and then by letting them resound within ourselves. Until finally, following these inner impulses, we take a first step (first core character; Zhen, the thunder). Just like the user who writes his ex-girlfriend a letter, perhaps to clarify some things. Maybe the rational, tactically smarter decision would have been not to do it. But he just followed his inner impulse.
In the further course of the hexagram, Zhen, the thunder (first core character) transforms into Kun, the earth. Our movement, born out of our inner impulse, falls on fertile grounds and could grow – in theory. But does it? How can we find out about the quality of our impulses? Intense reflection is one way. But actually it is easier, more human, to just give way to them, at least briefly.
If we imagine our inner impulses as a bag of mixed seeds: how can we find out what seed is fertile, and which seeds are old? Which seeds are useful and which useless? Probably the easiest way to find out is by planting them into a fresh bed of earth and to carefully observe what develops. Old seeds will not germinate, and we will hopefully detect the useless seeds soon enough to weed them.
So: does the seed, the impulse to write a first and then a second letter to his ex-girlfriend, germinate? It is a noble gesture to reflect a relationship in a letter. But after that gesture it is also wise to let go of (Gen, the mountain; upper trigram). Or, as Richard Bach puts it:

“If you love someone, set them free If they come back they’re yours, if they do not they never were.”

Yes, it is good to write a letter at the end of a relationship. But it’s also good to accept the answer – whatever it is.
Water in a fountain is a good teacher: it always flows downhill, choosing the path of least resistance. For us humans this means to accept things the way they are – instead of forcing our will on them or to run up against a brick wall. Hexagram 04 – youthful folly is auspicious, the judgment states: “Youthful folly has success.” But that only is true as long as we follow the path of the DAO, the way of the world, rather than to forcing our way onto the world. Because usually the DAO knows best what is good for us – and who.
The user finally asks a detailed question regarding the classical commentaries on hexagram 04 – youthful folly: “Who’s the fool, and who is the teacher?”
I think we are the fool and the DAO, the way of the world, is our teacher. If we accept the DAO, it will make the seeds, our inner impulses, visible to us and thus allow us to grow.

The current interpretation can be found here: https://www.no2do.com/hexagramme_en/878887.htm