Recensie: Jack M. Balkin, The Laws of Change

The Laws of Change is op het eerste gezicht een niet zo bijzondere I Tjing-vertaling. Er komen geen Belangwekkende Feiten in voor, en er worden ook geen Nieuwe Inzichten tentoongespreid. Toch valt het boek op, en wel door de kwaliteit van de toegevoegde toelichtingen.

Balkin heeft niet een boek geschreven wat revolutionair is. In de inleidende hoofdstukken, over de filosofie, het gebruik en de geschiedenis van de I Tjing, herhaalt hij feitelijk wat anderen al eerder hebben gezegd. Hij maakt goed gebruik van bronnen als Kunst, Rutt en Shaughnessy, en het zijn vooral deze mannen die de toon hebben bepaald: de oorsprong van de I Tjing vanuit een sinologische visie wordt netjes uitgewerkt, op een begrijpelijke manier. En dat is prettig voor de beginner die belang hecht aan duidelijke, niet-zweverige informatie. Alles is sinologisch verantwoord.

In het eerste gedeelte vinden we dus niet veel originaliteit. Het is duidelijk – en de auteur geeft dit ook aan in een kort e-mailinterview – dat het ‘m niet om originaliteit te doen is: een duidelijke toelichting was zijn doelstelling. Balkin heeft een prettige schrijfstijl die makkelijk leest. Je merkt dat hij de lezer persoonlijk wil aanspreken, en dat hij de I Tjing wil uitdragen als een boek van wijsheid, een persoonlijke raadgever die je voor misstappen kan behoeden. Toch presenteert Balkin het boek zonder een zweem van mystiek en magie:

[...]the book appears to speak directly to the questioner. In fact, the book does not speak. Only the person who consults it speaks. People use the book to talk to themselves, to jostle their unconscious and stimulate their intuitions. The real oracle always lies within. (p. 33)

Zelfonderzoek is het onderliggende thema van Balkin’s vertaling:

[The I Ching] does not predict the future. Rather, it stimulates you to think about the future (and about changes in your life) in creative ways.” (p. 53).

Hoe vinden we dat terug in zijn vertaling? Laten we eens als voorbeeld de derde lijn van hexagram 49 nemen, ‘Revolution’:

 Starting brings misfortune.
Perseverance brings danger.
When talk of revolution has made the rounds three times,
There is confidence.

Effective change requires both courage and caution, both daring and careful preparation. Heart and mind must be disciplined toward success. Major change usually affects people beside yourself. If the support of others is necessary to success, as it often, people must have confidence in what you are about to do. And for others to have confidence, you must have confidence in your own abilities and certainty in your own mind that your course of action is the right one.
For this reason, do not try to change things too hastily. Rash action without careful preparation will backfire. Reckless advance without the confidence of others will leave you vulnerable. Full and open discussion of the options is essential. Consider how the change will affect other people as well as yourself. You need to know whether conditions really are so bad that fundamental change is needed, and you need to know whether you will have the support you need if you begin to act. Hence the text says that “when talk of revolution has made the rounds three times” –i.e., when the issue has been fully contemplated and support for change is genuine – you may proceed with confidence.
(p. 487)

Alle teksten zijn praktisch, en gericht op wat je moet doen. Er spreekt vaak hoop uit, zelfs bij de desastreuze zesde lijn van hexagram 29: “The sorrow of this final line prepares the way for the next hexagram, Li, symbolizing the emergence of clarity and enlightenment after a period of great darkness.” (p. 331) De vertaling is duidelijk en beknopt, passend bij het Chinese origineel. Aan het eind van elk hexagram wordt d.m.v. voetnoten dieper ingegaan op specifieke karakters uit de Chinese tekst, die voor een andere lezing kunnen zorgen. Dit maakt de vertaling zeer compleet.

Bij elk hoofdstuk staat een intro-stukje voor de zes lijnteksten, waarin de lijnen worden samengevat. B.v. hexagram 29:

 The lines describe what to do in a condition of extreme danger. The danger begins in line one. In lines two through five, the Book of Changes advises caution and circumspection. In line six, one has become trapped in danger, and must wait for better times. (p. 328)

In een paar bijlagen wordt nog ingegaan op de volgorde van de hexagrammen, en de bronnen welke Balkin heeft geraadpleegd.

Conclusie
Het boek is zeer compleet met alle inleidende tekst en bijlagen. Daarnaast is de vertaling duidelijk en – sinologisch gezien – accuraat. Het boek is uitstekend geschikt voor de beginnende I Tjinger, die direct goed ingewijd wil worden in de filosofie en geschiedenis van de I Tjing, zonder lastiggevallen te worden door details.

Kort e-mailinterview met de auteur, Jack M. Balkin

What is the I Ching to you? How, why and when do you use it?
The I Ching means many different things to different people. For me, it is a compendium of strategies for dealing with life. Using the I Ching spurs creative thought and helps people rethink their situation. It is also a book of moral instruction and self-cultivation.

What were your motivations to add another book to the list of available translations?
Actually, I did not start out intending to write a new translation at all! My primary motivation was to provide a set of commentaries that would explain the philosophical and practical meaning of the I Ching to contemporary audiences. However, one cannot really write such commentaries without reference to the text. So I felt that it was necessary to provide the reader with a simple, easy to understand translation of the core text of the I Ching, along with the most ethical part of the Ten Wings, the Commentary on the Great Images. I also wanted to provide a short history of the book, drawing together various sources, because many of the popular versions provide a misleading history.

Your book is a translation with commentary. How did you do the translation? Did you also use Chinese sources?
I used the original Chinese text, supplemented by concordances and dictionaries, and checked my work against a variety of other translations and commentaries. Fortunately, a great deal of work has been done on the problems of translating the I Ching into English in the past thirty years, and this made my task easier than it would have otherwise been. My aim was readability and ease of understanding in conjunction with the commentaries, which were the primary motivation for writing the book.

When I look at your website your writings seem to deal more with legal and constitutional matters than with Chinese philosophy, and the title of your book also seems to refer to it. Do you know what your friends and collegues in that area think of your I Ching translation? How does the I Ching fit in this specific area?
My friends and colleagues regard this work as separate from my serious work as a legal scholar. I regard it as completely continuous with my interests in politics, ethics, and practical philosophy. There is an obvious and important connection between yin-yang philosophy and post-structuralist philosophy. There is also an important connection between the ethics of I Ching and the problems of politics and governance. Finally, the interpretation of a canonical text like the I Ching bears many interesting similarities to the problems of interpretation of canonical legal texts like the U.S. Constitution.

In your online article “Law, Music, and Other Performing Arts”, you quote Richard Posner:
“”[I]nterpretation” is a chameleon. When a performing musician “interprets” a work of music, is he expressing the composer’s, or even the composition’s, “meaning,” or is he not rather expressing himself within the interstices of the score?”

If we change ‘music’ to ‘book’, and ‘musician’ to ‘translator/writer’, could you answer this question from your point of view?.

Every interpreter beings something to the work that he or she interprets. This is true of music, and it is true of law, and it is also true of the interpretation of canonical texts, like the I Ching. Interpreters also express themselves through their work. But it does not follow that interpretation is nothing more than self-expression. Interpreters have a responsibility to try to convey the meaning of the work to the audience as best they can, even if others may see things somewhat differently.

In 40, line two you write: “One catches three foxes in the field”, to which you add “The “three foxes” represent greed, ignorance, and fear”. Based on what?
Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi argued that the three foxes referred to the three yin lines above the second (yang) line in Hexagram 40, which could represent petty persons, or inferior influences. I follow Chu and Sherrill’s interpretation in identifying them with particular negative emotions.

If someone approached you with the question ‘I want to use the I Ching. How do I start?’, what path would you advise?
Ask it a question, and see where it leads you.

Harmen Mesker.


Titel: The Laws of Change: I Ching and the Philosophy of Life
Auteur: Jack M. Balkin
Jaar: 2002/2009
Uitgever: Sybil Creek Press
ISBN: 978-0984253715

Bookmark the permalink.

Geef een reactie/Leave a comment