The Noble One: Exchange

May 20, 2011

Hexagram 58, Exchange, is symbolized by two lakes pouring into another. This is a fitting background to the Image: The noble one investigates and explains knowledge to friends.

We can instantly see what the I Ching regards as important: this is the exchange of two equals. The pairing is not a lake and a stream, nor a river and an ocean. It is the joining of two lakes, two bodies of water that are equivalent.

When we exchange or share with others, there has to be equality. A lake is formed by the pooling of water. Thus the personality of the people in the exchange must be correspondingly deep, the accumulation of much wisdom, knowledge, and experience.

Two lakes are also level, placid, flat. There are no aggressive points on the surface, there are no sharp parts to the lakes. The lakes represent two people who have profound knowledge but who outwardly are smooth, level, and mirroring heaven.

When two lakes join, their waters mingle. When two lakes join, one flows into another and then the waters will flow back until the waters cannot be separated from one another: two lakes joined in exchange will eventually come to a common level. What is created is a new lake, with its own depth, its own contours, its own waterline.

Tao is frequently compared to water. This comparison is so often repeated that we may sometimes forget to look at it fresh. Two lakes join in exchange that can only be achieved by flowing back and forth—one lake cannot “conquer” the other. In the exchange, something new is formed—a single lake, double in volume and surface area. But it all started with equality, a flowing into one another, and a settling to a new depth. In this example, then, Tao is achieved by the exchange of two lakes.

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