To lose is to gain

Some nights ago, I was struggling with the meaning of Hexagram #41 of I Ching. It advised that to decrease or to lose something is “good”. In fact, the translated message was “Supreme good fortune”. I was mentally stuck. How can losing something ever be considered positive, never mind “Supreme good fortune”? For example, losing a wallet, losing one’s job, decreasing one’s wealth or losing one’s health is considered positive? I  fell asleep while mulling over those thoughts.

I woke up the next day and lazed on the couch and read more about Hexagram #41. Gradually over the span of a few minutes, the meaning of the hexagram made sense to me. To lose something is to gain in something else. Or to decrease in something is to increase in something else. For example, if you have a family and have been spending all your waking hours at work, by losing or quitting your job which can be terrible, you gain time to spend with your family.

It brought to my mind the advice given to Hercules by his teacher on the eighth of his 12 tasks – the slaying of the Hydra:

We rise by kneeling
We conquer by surrendering
We gain by giving up

It also bought to my mind what was preached in a church that I attended many years ago:

To be a leader, be a follower
By being the last, you become the first

What I am saying is this: it’s not necessarily bad when you lose something or someone. I know, I’m a bad and cruel person for saying so. How can it be good when say, a loved one has died? I don’t know. I just know that life happens and some things just happen for a reason even though we can’t comprehend it at that point in time. Oh, enough of this new age bullshit, I hear you say. At this point in time, I would like to share an ancient Chinese tale with you, as retold by me:

Once a upon a time, there was a farmer with a handsome stallion. His neighbours admired the horse and often praised it in front of the farmer “It’s a great stallion. How fortunate you are to have possession of it.” The farmer always replied “So it is.”

The farmer had a son who rode on the stallion. One fine day, the horse got into a fit when the son was riding it and threw the boy off his back. The boy landed on the ground, landed badly on the ground and was a cripple as a result of the fall. The neighbours came around and gave their commiserations to the farmer “I’m so sorry to hear about your boy. It’s indeed unfortunate.” The farmer replied”So it is.”

Years past. The country was fighting a war. The king sent his men to recruit young men into the army to fight the war . All the neighbours’ sons were conscripted into the army except for the farmer’s son who was deemed unfit for the army. The neighbours were devastated that their sons were sent to the army and it’s very likely that they would never see their sons again. They told the farmer “Your son is so lucky that he wasn’t chosen to be part of the army. My boy left for the army yesterday.” The farmer replied”So it is.”

Perhaps, the moral of the above story isn’t so much of “To lose is to gain” but rather “To lose is to gain. To gain is to lose.” This follows the cycle of nature doesn’t it? For example, the moon “grew” from nothing to a full moon and the “died” slowly to nothingness and the cycle repeats itself. The trees “lose” by shedding their foliage during winter and it seemed that all is lost. However, spring arrives and they adorn themselves with their spring and summer clothing of leaves again.

This post has gone a bit too long. What I would like to say is – there are times when you have lost someone or something that you dearly loved. It’s painful. It’s horrible. You just want to die. But take heart. There’s something else that’s waiting for you after this period of darkness. You may think that it’s not possible. But it is. You have to remind yourself of the times in the past when you have lost something but something beautiful came out of it. Write down those times and remind yourself of them. Darkness won’t last forever.

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