In the English translation of the German version of the Yijing (I Ching) Richard Wilhelm, the German translator, comments about the fifth hexagram: “Waiting is not mere empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal. Such certainty alone gives that light which leads to success. This leads to the perseverance that brings good fortune and bestows power to cross the great water. One is faced with a danger that has to be overcome. Weakness and impatience can do nothing. Only a strong man can stand up to his fate, for his inner security enables him to endure to the end. This strength shows itself in uncompromising truthfulness [with himself]. It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self-deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized. This recognition must be followed by resolute and persevering action. For only the man who goes to meet his fate resolutely is equipped to deal with it adequately. Then he will be able to cross the great water–that is to say, he will be capable of making the necessary decision and of surmounting the danger.” The name of this hexagram is translated as “Waiting” by Wilhelm and given an alternative title of Nourishment.
Alfred Huang, however, makes the case that the name of the hexagram ought to be translated as Needing. He says the original ideograph for this gua (water over heaven) is rain that is falling through clouds, with four drops getting through the border and on down. The second alternative, Huang says, is that the original ideograph is a picture of a man praying for rain. The rain has not yet fallen, and is needed, for, after all, without the rain there is no food. Thus, Huang’s translation of the ideograph as needing is truly about the need for man to eat and drink, and thus its proper Dao (Tao), of path, or way, or nature, etc., is rain.
To need is to want what is necessary. Let the rain come…
We cannot, then, when divination gives us hexagram five, simply move forward rashly or aggressively, because the conditions are not yet ready for movement. We have to wait and be patient. We must persevere for the opportune moment to arrive.
The word wait has several synonyms in English. Wait, wait for, await, look for, expect. Wait and its forms comes from the Old French waite, gaite, allied to the Anglo-Saxon wacian, to watch, and as such we get the word watch, to see or look, and expect, from the Latin ex, out of, and specto, to behold, both signifying originally the same thing as look for, to look with concern for a thing. All these terms express the action of the mind when directed to future matters of personal concern to the agent. Wait, wait for, and await differ only in style, and imply the looking simply toward an object in a state of suspense or still regard. We wait for the rain and we wait for its falling. We await the hour of the rain or its storm, i.e., we keep the mind in readiness of it.
Wait and wait for refer to matters that are remote and obscure in the prospect or certain in the event. Await refers to an event near at hand and probable to happen, and therefore it is more allied to look for and expect. The former expresses the movement of the eyes as well as the mind, the latter, the act of the mind alone, as contemplating as an object as very probable or even certain. It is our duty to patiently await the severest trials when we are threatened by them. Indulged children look for the repetition of the indulgence at the wrong times. One cannot look for or expect felicity in marriage if it is not founded on cordial and mutual regard.
Waiting is a great part of our lives. I am still waiting for certain things to happen to me since I was young. Heidegger says that we all waiting for Being, writ large, to come to us in the future and finally reveal all to us since the time were excreted from it. Two clowns are waiting for Godot. Wilhelm makes the case that “waiting is not mere empty hoping.” Yet, a vast part of modern thought is rooted in the belief that our waiting for something divine or a meaning to life or all the great answers to human life is empty hoping.
It may be seem strange to say that Socrates is a hopeless man, a man without hope, because he has attained what he has wanted and waited for, i.e., to live the life of the philosopher. But he is different from Heidegger and the clowns waiting for Godot. With Beckett’s clowns, there is a sense that the empty hoping is actually caused by hopelessness itself as part of its dynamic in life. Hopelessness reveals itself in empty hoping and cannot do so in any other way. To hope is actually to be hopeless, and because we are hopeless we must sufferingly wait in empty hoping.
The synonyms of hope are expectation, trust, confidence. All these words anticipate the future. Hope is from the Anglo-Saxon hopa. Hope is that which is welcome. Expectation (like await above) is either welcome or not. We hope only for that which is good. We expect the bad along with the good. When it is raining (what is the it?) and stormy, we hope it will stop soon. In drought, however, we expect a bad harvest and a lack of food. Hope is only a presentiment, and varies in degree, more according to the temper of the mind than the nature of the circumstances. There is some hope or no hope at all. Some despair where they might hope. Expectation excludes is a conviction that excludes doubt. We expect in proportion that as the conviction is positive. We hope that which may be or can possibly be. We expect that which must be or ought to be. The young hope to live a long time; the old expect to die in a few years.
Hope and expectation anticipate some good. Trust (a synonym of belief) and confidence depend on the person or thing to bring about the good. We can hope and expect in the trust and confidence we have in something or we may not hope and expect, because there is no room for trust or confidence. We may hope that something good will come about, because the future is uncertain. We may expect that it will rain today. We can trust our friend to be kind. I can confide in my friend in his promises. Trust and confidence denote the same sentiment. However, trust is applied to objects generally, while confidence is in particular objects. We may trust partially, but we can confide entirely. We may trust the stranger, but we confide in our friends or those we are partial to. Trust and confidence may both be applied to a man’s self, or that which belongs to him, with a similar distinction.
There is no hope if there is no good or if one achieves the good fully. Because much of modernity assumes that there is no final or great good, it makes all hopes empty in the end or simply trivial at best. We can’t trust the world or have any confidence that there is any good in it. We cannot expect that we find anything good ever.
The Yijing assumes and to a great extent proves that opposites turn into each other, or what is called enantiodromia in ancient Greek (which is seemingly odd, because the Dao is non-dual). But certain things are always necessary. We need to eat. It is precisely because we have to eat that the problem of waiting and needing is so important. While there is a hexagram or gua for waiting, there is no gua entitled “hope” and I don’t remember the word hope showing up in any of the judgments. While many moving lines and judgments may be hopeful, hope really doesn’t enter in the Yijing. It is because, unlike the modern or even the Christian view, we have the good with us all the time. One might say that as every moment of our lives is good; thus, we don’t need hope. We may need some kinds of change or adverse changes happen to us from without and not by our doing, if we live properly, according to the Dao, i.e., the good, we need no hope. We may need to persevere or wait, but our lives are not lived in empty hoping, because we don’t live for the future or in the past. The modern approach to time and the future as something real, having being, which we must anticipate actually requires hope, whether it is hopeless or not, because we require something that is in the future, not here in the present, which is always defective. When we live in the proverbial now in all its flux, its in adversities and its moments of bliss, we are always nourished by what is good, even if we die of starvation. In the modern world, we can have a great abundance of food from the whole world, but this world without the good means that we are always waiting in empty hope of never having the nourishment we need through bad times. That bad times are those in which we have made sure that there is no way for enantiodromia to work and we do nothing but hope for the rain that will not come.