4. Enveloping (méng). Youthful Folly
Ignorance is won by wisdom. Emptiness should be filled in. Nature stands no emptiness.
Inital text of I Ching
Youthful Folly has success. 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. Perseverance furthers.
A spring wells up at the foot of the mountain:
The image of Youth. Thus the superior man fosters his character by thoroughness in all that he does.
- To make a fool develop it furthers one to apply discipline. The fetters should be removed. To go on in this way brings humiliation.
- To bear with fools in kindliness brings good fortune. To know how to take women brings good fortune. The son is capable of taking charge of the household.
- Take not a maiden who, when she sees a man of bronze, loses possession of herself. Nothing furthers.
- Entangled folly brings humiliation.
- Childlike folly brings good fortune.
- In punishing folly it does not further one to commit transgressions. The only thing that furthers is to prevent transgressions.
Natural gifts are subjected by ignorance. Efforts to overcome it are needed. An ignorant person is in captivity of illusions. Difficulties when moving forward are inevitable. Plenitude and emptiness can be of two kinds: material and spiritual. Do not worry about material emptiness, be afraid of spiritual emptiness. Seek no material plenitude, seek knowledge instead of gold. Do not envy rich men; do not try to be like them. Gold can dazzle and ignorance will become deeper. Find a teacher, ask questions, but try to avoid excessive importunity. Take the first directions of teacher into account. Do not wait that knowledge will find you itself, show initiative. Do not worry about temporary stop. Lack of knowledge makes movement dangerous.
In this hexagram we are reminded of youth and folly in two different ways.
The image of the upper trigram, Kên, is the mountain, that of the lower,
K'an, is water; the spring rising at the foot of the mountain is the image of
inexperienced youth. Keeping still is the attribute of the upper trigram; that of
the lower is the abyss, danger. Stopping in perplexity on the brink of a
dangerous abyss is a symbol of the folly of youth. However, the two trigrams
also show the way of overcoming the follies of youth. Water is something
that of necessity flows on. When the spring gushes forth, it does not know at
first where it will go. But its steady flow fills up the deep place blocking its
progress, and success is attained.
In the time of youth, folly is not an evil. One may succeed in spite of it,
provided one finds an experienced teacher and has the right attitude toward
him. This means, first of all, that the youth himself must be conscious of his
lack of experience and must seek out the teacher. Without this modesty and
this interest there is no guarantee that he has the necessary receptivity, which
should express itself in respectful acceptance of the teacher. This is the reason
why the teacher must wait to be sought out instead of offering himself. Only
thus can the instruction take place at the right time and in the right way.
A teacher's answer to the question of a pupil ought to be clear and definite
like that expected from an oracle; thereupon it ought to be accepted as a key
for resolution of doubts and a basis for decision. If mistrustful or
unintelligent questioning is kept up, it serves only to annoy the teacher. He
does well to ignore it in silence, just as the oracle gives one answer only and
refuses to be tempted by questions implying doubt.
Given addition a perseverance that never slackens until the points are
mastered one by one, real success is sure to follow. Thus the hexagram
counsels the teacher as well as the pupil.
A spring succeeds in flowing on and escapes stagnation by filling up all the
hollow places in its path. In the same way character is developed by
thoroughness that skips nothing but, like water, gradually and steadily fills up
all gaps and so flows onward.
Law is the beginning of education. Youth in its inexperience is inclined at first
to take everything carelessly and playfully. It must be shown the seriousness
of life. A certain measure of taking oneself in hand, brought about by strict
discipline, is a good thing. He who plays with life never amounts to
anything. However, discipline should not degenerate into drill. Continuous
drill has a humiliating effect and cripples a man's powers.
These lines picture a man who has no external power, but who has enough
strength of mind to bear his burden of responsibility. He has the inner
superiority and that enable him to tolerate with kindliness the shortcomings
of human folly. The same attitude is owed to women as the weaker sex. One
must understand them and give them recognition in a spirit of chivalrous
consideration. Only this combination of inner strength with outer reserve
enables one to take on the responsibility of directing a larger social body with
A weak, inexperienced man, struggling to rise, easily loses his own
individuality when he slavishly imitates a strong personality of higher
station. He is like a girl throwing herself away when she meets a strong man.
Such a servile approach should not be encouraged, because it is bad both for
the youth and the teacher. A girl owes it to her dignity to wait until she is
wooed. In both cases it is undignified to offer oneself, and no good comes of
accepting such an offer.
For youthful folly it is the most hopeless thing to entangle itself in empty
imaginings. The more obstinately it clings to such unreal fantasies, the more
certainly will humiliation overtake it.
Often the teacher, when confronted with such entangled folly, has no other
course but to leave the fool to himself for a time, not sparing him the
humiliation that results. This is frequently the only means of rescue.
An inexperienced person who seeks instruction in a childlike and
unassuming way is on the right path, for the man devoid of arrogance who
subordinated himself to his teacher will certainly be helped.
Sometimes an incorrigible fool must be punished. He who will not heed will
be made to feel. This punishment is quite different from a preliminary
shaking up. But the penalty should not be imposed in anger; it must be
restricted to an objective guarding against unjustified excesses. Punishment
is never an end in itself but serves merely to restore order.
This applies not only in regard to education but also in regard to the
measures taken by a government against a populace guilty of transgressions.
Governmental interference should always be merely preventive and should
have as its sole aim the establishment of public security and peace.
Barbara Hejslip interpretation
Now all around of you as is covered by a veil; but this veil will soon disappear, and the world again will get for you clearness. Now your nerves are strongly loosened, therefore try to not accept hasty decisions. Soon all will change. If wish to become successful - do not neglect councils of friends, the heads, ponder upon them. Give more time to dialogue with children. Do not despond. Already there are the new plans, new prospects, but for new love time has not come yet. Gather; also concentrate will on performance of the one and only desire.