If there is a hexagram for our country’s current conditions, Denise Weaver Ross’ interpretation of the I Ching’s Hexagram 6 could be the one. In the I Ching, Hexagram 6 is a sign that deepening ideological differences and stubborn quarrels are exasperated by a refusal to back down by both sides, each believing they are correct fundamentally. This is the definition of conflict within our modern American sociopolitical system and the image of conflict with Hexagram 6: Sung (Creative Tension).
To understand Ross’ Hexagram 6, you need to understand a bit about the hexagram from the I Ching or Classic of Changes that serves as a basis for the image. Representing two trigrams of three lines apiece, we see Heaven represented above and the abysmal, or watery depths, below. In the hexagram, Heaven and water go in opposite directions creating arguments, strife, contention and conflict. Classically, it is a cautionary indication that following through with your approach to the conflict, even if you are in the right, will ultimately lead to ruin because of the damage the act of the conflict itself will bring. The I Ching’s prescription is to take corrective action to resolve your conflicts and meet your opponent halfway, never an easy thing to do. To go further, it is a reminder that being stubborn is not the same as being virtuous.
As part of an ambitious project to interpret all 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, Ross places two dragons intertwined within the lines of Hexagram 6. Each suffers, though she has rendered each dragon with equal care. “I don’t want to take sides,” she told me. Having completed the series once, Ross is now in the process of painting them all again. She says that maybe she will continue repainting them for the rest of her life, making changes as she sees fit. It is a practice in some respects and one that has captured the concentration of some of the great philosophers of antiquity.
Ross’s interpretation of this hexagram is exemplary, demonstrating the frenetic quality of conflict without the use of obnoxious colors. The painting doesn’t draw you in, but requires you step back to see the entire picture. While there are no good or bad hexagrams in the I Ching, many suggest stepping back to clarify the purpose of your actions. Stepping back for a better view of art, politics and/or your own personal choices is always good advice, regardless of where it comes from. In this case, Hexagram 6: Sung (Creative Tension) is an excellent reminder to do just that.