Nature provides much insight about life if we take the time to notice. Being like water for example can help us to manage the problems we face. Then, there is the matter of gradual development. No matter how much we try to rush matters, everything will only unfold at its own time. If we complete a process through excessive haste, the desired outcome will not occur. This applies to many areas in life. Whether it is the growth of a tree or the growth of a relationship or even the growth of a nation, only gradual development can ensure lasting success.
Yijing Hexagram 53: Gradual Development
This hexagram is made up of Sun (wood, penetration) above, i.e., without, and Kên (mountain, stillness) below, i.e., within. A tree on a mountain develops slowly according to the law of its being and consequently stands firmly rooted. This gives the idea of a development that proceeds gradually, step by step. The attributes of the trigrams also point to this: within is tranquillity, which guards against precipitate actions, and without is penetration, which makes development and progress possible.
Development. The maiden
Is given in marriage.
The development of events that leads to a girl’s following a man to his home proceeds slowly. The various formalities must be disposed of before the marriage takes place. This principle of gradual development can be applied to other situations as well; it is always applicable where it is a matter of correct relationships of co-operation, as for instance in the appointment of an official. The development must be allowed to take its proper course. Hasty action would not be wise.
This is also true, finally, of any effort to exert influence on others, for here too the essential factor is a correct way of development through cultivation of one’s own personality. No influence such as that exerted by agitators has a lasting effect.
Within the personality too, development must follow the same course if lasting results are to be achieved. Gentleness that is adaptable, but at the same time penetrating, is the outer form that should proceed from inner calm. The very gradualness of the development makes it necessary to have perseverance, for perseverance alone prevents slow progress from dwindling to nothing.
On the mountain, a tree:
The image of Development.
Thus the superior man abides in dignity and virtue,
In order to improve the mores.
The tree on the mountain is visible from afar, and its development influences the landscape of the entire region. It does not shoot up like a swamp plant; its growth proceeds gradually. Thus also the work of influencing people can be only gradual. No sudden influence or awakening is of lasting effect. Progress must be quite gradual, and in order to obtain such progress in public opinion and in the mores of the people, it is necessary for the personality to acquire influence and weight. This comes about through careful and constant work on one’s own moral development.
A Fast-Paced Society
We cannot rush the growth of a tree no matter how hard we try. All we can do is to make sure that nothing hinders its process of growth. As it is with a tree, so it is with events in human life. We cannot rush the development of affairs whether it is work, relationships, challenges and so on.
Yet this is not an easy concept to apply to our lives. We live in a fast-paced world where speed is of the essence. The slightest delay causes irritation for most of us. If matters drag on for far too long, we lack the perseverance and give up. If we do not give up, we may well be so impatient, that we are willing to get the job done at any cost. We may even resort to taking short cuts and cutting corners if it is faster. But taking short cuts in most cases is not prudent. What we gain in the short term may not be worth the trouble in the long term.
The Dangers of Rushing the Process
There is always a price to pay for everything. If we rush events before their time, there is bound to be repercussions, which is the price for excessive haste. What we gain in speed, we have to pay for later in some other area. In some cases, others may pay the price for us.
We cannot create anything of lasting value when we rush through the process. Whether we like it or not, events have a process of vital steps that will lead to the intended outcome. If we skip any of these steps, we may compromise the entire process as a result. This may cause problems later.
For example, I read that a pharmacy gave a pregnant woman abortion drugs instead of the antibiotics she needed. Naturally, the pharmacy released a statement saying it has systems and processes in place to prevent such mishaps. But clearly, they are not enough if the staff do indeed follow the systems strictly. Or in this case, they may have failed to do so. It could be that the pharmacy was short-handed and could not adhere to the proper steps of the process. How else could a mishap of this magnitude occur? Who knows how the drugs have already affected the unborn child? It is regrettable that an unborn child has to pay the price.
The Nature and Benefits of Gradual Development
Gradual development is not the same as being slow. It is the completion of all the necessary steps in a sure and steady manner to ensure lasting success. If there are ten necessary steps to a process, we cannot miss even one. If we did so, the process would be likely to fail. Whether it is the growth of an idea or the maturity of a child to adulthood, everything in this world needs time to develop. But the development does not happen in a haphazard manner. There are certain best practices to follow in every situation. This is the Tao of events.
To assure our success, we have to put in time and effort to complete all the steps. In this way, we gain the experience needed to repeat and sustain the success we have in the future. But once we have done all we can, we have to allow events to unfold at its own time and place. Only by doing so, will we be able to the needless mistakes that could arise because of our haste and speed. But that is not all. When we see the process of gradual development right to the end, we save time, money and effort that we can put to better use elsewhere.
The Cycle of Lasting Success
It is true that there are cases where we have to seize the opportunity. If we hesitate, we could miss our only chance. But here we have to ask ourselves if we are truly ready for the opportunity. If we are not, our success gained through lightning speed will be just as fleeting. To worsen matters, our subsequent fall from grace could be devastating.
Again, the process of gradual development underlies success. Lasting success only happens if we have laid the foundations for it through our hard work and preparation. Only then will we be ready to seize the moment when it appears before us. Even so, the attainment of success is the beginning, not the end. There is still much work to do to consolidate our gains. And so, we return to gradual development. Such is the cycle of lasting success.
Our Role in Gradual Development
We have a vital part to play in the gradual development of events that affect our lives. If we wish to take charge of our destinies, we have to shape our futures with our choices and actions. This means taking all the needed steps in the process to bring our plans to fruition. Without the time and effort from us, our dreams will never become a reality.
After doing all we can, we need to make room for events to unfold naturally. This requires patience. But as far as possible, our patience should not be one of passive waiting. Instead, we should wait actively. How then do we wait actively? The answer is simple. As events develop at its own pace, we should be do all we can to aid the process. If there is nothing to do to influence events directly, we could channel our efforts to other matters that need our attention. By clearing all the matters that hold our attention and energy, we end up with less on our plate and minds. This way, when the time comes we will be ready to seize the opportunity to attain our goals.
Do you have difficulty with the gradual development of events? What are some of the ways you use to cope when you have to wait? Is there anything else I may have missed in my article? Do share your thoughts and comments below.
The I-Ching or Book of Changes Translated by Richard Wilhelm, Cary F. Baynes. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997.