Li The Fire
"Beneath the light,
the river and hills
The spring breeze
bears the fragrance
of flowers and grass.
The mud has thawed,
and swallows fly around.
On the warm sand,
mandarin ducks are sleeping." -Du Fu
Light gives definition to all we see. It is a phenomenon, which we know little about other than how its movement defines the basic laws of our universe. In every way, Light is fundamental to life, as we know it. We observe its physical properties as particles, but also watch as it behaves like waves. Its variations offer subtle proof that we might exist beyond our observable physical manifestation.
As the gift of Prometheus, who gave Fire to humans, or the American Indian myths where Raven stole the sunlight from Manmaker, unlike earth, air and water, Fire is the one element, which connects us to the divine.
Li teaches how the essential meaning of any one thing can only be understood in relationship to all that stands next to, and influences it.
There is a synergistic aspect of life as it moves in its endless flow of interdependency. Li captures both, the idea of observable order, and how it becomes the organic field of relationships called Tao. This observable order can be found in cross sections of the earth, or in the circles of a treestump to describe the order of what has passed. Inherent in seeds or in DNA that describees what we will become, we discover the order of what will be.
To the ancient Taoist, Li or Fire was represented by an open Yin line suspended between two, creative Yang lines. Its symbolism resembles a circle of openness at the center. As the second of the primary forces of the I Ching, it suggests the clinging or synergistic aspect of life that surrounds us. Li reminds us to open to the Creative drive ‘in here’ to discover how it is being shaped by events ‘out there.’ Representing the seeds of spring blossoming into a myriad of life forms, all living things follow a unique pattern of inborn design. Fire suggests how clarity and intelligence rise within to lead us to express our unique nature.
Attached to the illuminating energy of the surrounding Yang lines, Fire is dependent upon whatever it uses to keep burning. Approaching experience, we do not fight the very thing that gives us life. It is a model for how we might move harmoniously with the energy of nature, no matter where the changes may lead us. This sense of movement in harmony with the Creative principle, can best be described as spring fever. More than at any other time, we feel a deep connection to the changing seasons and a sense of rebirth.
In the radiance of Li or Fire, we tap a guiding source within that brings illumination and perspective to all we see. Fire can reflect our desire to consume and destroy, although it is also symbolic of our celestial heritage that allows us to transform. Like the Phoenix, or mythical bird that rises from Fire, all events coach us to renew ourselves from the ashes of the past.
For many centuries, the wisdom of the ancient Greeks was lost to civilization. When it was rediscovered during the middle ages, we find the springtime of Western thought and the lantern that would lead humanity forward. The Age of Reason reflects the cyclical movement of civilization each time we return to nature for answers as to why we have become lost. When ideas become prisons, we are always brought back to earth. Fire reminds us of the need for balance in all of our passions, balancing a passion of the mind with our passionate feelings. Intelligence without an appreciation for life will always burn itself out.
Allowing the color and texture of the world to permeate our being, we activate the synergistic intelligence of our real nature or te by understanding how events emerge to unleash it. The clinging and attachment nature of Li requires full participation with life and not just detached curiosity. No longer observing with intellectual objectivity, we burn away the shackles that disconnect us from living.
Feelings make life valuable, and Li suggests that we discover what intelligence alone, cannot reveal. To have a mind disconnected from heart is to live a life searching for meaning, when meaning is unfolding all around us. The Master said: “The truth is not a sign that points to something beyond itself; it just is.” As the Fire returns light to our footsteps, it reminds us of how we remain intrinsically connected to all we see.