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What is the 'Book of Changes'?
The I Ching serves as a foundation for many Eastern philosophies and Western mathematics.
- The I Ching is the basis for polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's binary code and subsequently basis of our digital technology.
- Psychologist Carl Jung used the Book of Changes to explore notions of synchronicity or "meaningful coincidence."
- Alan Watts considered the I Ching to be a model that mapped the thinking processes of the human mind.
The I Ching or, as many Western audiences know it, the Book of Changes, is a book that is thousands of years old. Throughout the years it has served as an all-encompassing philosophical treatise of the universe, a guide toward ethical living, a guidebook for ruling, and as an oracle for one's personal life and psychic future. Two of the most major branches of Chinese philosophy, Confucianism and Taoism owe their creation to this foundational book.
Here and there it popped up for Western scientists and philosophers to study — the first European commentary was written in the late 15th century. In the 1950s and subsequent '60s counterculture, the I Ching held a special place as a divinatory guidance book for living a better life. The book has spawned countless interpretations, commentaries and dueling schools of thought. It is by far the most consulted book in China and East Asia.
All of this said, the exact origins of the I Ching is shrouded in myth and mystery. According to a mythological version of the creation story, the Chinese hero Fu Xi stared into the skies and the world around him and discovered that everything could be arranged in eight trigrams. That is, three stacked lines either broken or solid, which reflect yin and yang — the cosmic duality of the world and void.
There is historical record that, in 1050 BCE, Emperor Wen of the Zhou dynasty changed the trigrams into hexagrams (six lines) which created 64 different combinations. This is the Book of Changes that we now know today.
The I Ching and Carl Jung
German sinologist, Richard Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching stands as the definitive work to read if you're interested in learning about the ancient work. In a foreword to the book, Carl Jung, psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, expressed his intrigue on the divinatory aspect of this mysterious book:
"For more than 30 years I have interested myself in this oracle technique, or method of exploring the unconscious, for it has seemed to me of uncommon significance. I was already fairly familiar with the I Ching when I first met Wilhelm in the early 1920s; he confirmed for me then what I already knew, and taught me many things more."
Jung used the oracle with his patients during therapy sessions. There was a great deal of meaningful and relevant answers to his patients' questions. Coming from a scientific background where demonstrable causality is gospel, Jung was very curious to see why this ancient book was so apt to a seemingly infinite amount of circumstance.
"... A certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality. Since the latter is a merely statistical truth and not absolute, it is a sort of working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another, whereas synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance."
Even today, such talk of synchronicity gets eye rolls from the materialist and positivist crowd as just a bunch of New Age hogwash. "Western scholars have tended to dispose of it as a collection of 'magic spells,'" wrote Jung in the foreword.
Jung believed that the traditional Chinese mind, as he saw their work laid out in the I Ching, is preoccupied with the chance aspect of natural events. Our notion of coincidence is the main concern of the I Ching. Jung would go on to propose that psyche and matter are one in the same and that through synchronicity, inner psyche and the outside world are intrinsically connected in a way unknown to scientists still tied to their irrefutable axiom truth of causality.
Jung explains that the ancient Chinese school of thought was more modern than we suspected.
"The ancient Chinese mind contemplates the cosmos in a way comparable to that of the modern physicist, who cannot deny that his model of the world is a decidedly psychophysical structure. The microphysical event includes the observer just as much as the reality underlying the I Ching comprises subjective, i.e., psychic conditions in the totality of the momentary situation."
The Book of Changes and Alan Watts
Alan Watts - The I Ching
The essence of all of Alan Watts' philosophies and arguments largely pertain to remedying the apparent separation of dualities and realizing that in its stead is always an interdependence of opposites. Under our limited dualities of language this seems to be a universal truth. This implies that and that implies this. Order and chaos, self and other and so on.
Alan Watts saw that the implicit idea of yin and yang was a fundamental way of viewing reality. It is within this infinite mix of yin and yang in which the multiplicity of reality arises.
In fact all information whatsoever can be translated into terms of yang and yin.
"The Book of Changes is thought to be the oldest of the great Chinese classics and to date from perhaps as early as 1300 BCE. The book may also go back to the earliest phases of human thought because the I Ching is really the ground plan in the way in which not only the Chinese think, it's almost a mapping of all the thinking processes of man."
Watts was aware of the fact that the system of arithmetic which is used by digital computers came from the I Ching. Here he refers to binary code:
"We have a binary system of arithmetic zero and one in varying arrangements. Digital computers use a number system which consists only of the figures zero and one, out of which you can construct any number and this was invented by Leibniz who got it from the Book of Changes."
The I Ching predates binary code by some 5,000 years — if the earliest estimates of the book's creation are true.
In the late 1600s to early 1700s, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was looking for a better arithmetic method over the decimal system. Leibniz invented binary arithmetic by studying the I Ching. This said, the Book of Changes being an influence for binary code is an understatement.
The title of his paper was: "Explanation of the binary arithmetic, which uses only the characters 1 and 0, with some remarks on its usefulness, and on the light it throws on the ancient Chinese figures of Fu X."
Leibniz would surely be shocked at what has succeeded his invention. Everything that we compute and represent digitally and experience is at its core a complex string of binary signals.
Watts found this a profound insight into the validity of the I Ching and its ancient wisdom:
There's a sudden unexpected link between the most sophisticated mathematical machinery and a book originating at least in 1300 BC.
Book of Changes influence on modern society
There is no final authority on the cosmic truths that the I Ching reveals. But it does offer us an ancient and renewed paradigmatic way of viewing the world.
Alan Watts leaves us with a fitting remark on its place in the world:
"This book is somehow always with us, but this then is a way of helping your own multivariable brain arrive at decisions cooperating with your own mind because then again after you've tossed your 64 sided coin, the oracle that you read and explains each particular hexagram in the Book of Changes is a sort of Rorschach blot, it is a very laconic remarks to which everybody reads just exactly what they want to read."
Whether you're utilizing it as a tool to dig into your psyche, consulting for advice like kings of yore or following it as a personal philosophy — the I Ching still has much to tell us.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
A recent study tested how well the fungi species Cladosporium sphaerospermum blocked cosmic radiation aboard the International Space Station.
- Radiation is one of the biggest threats to astronauts' safety during long-term missions.
- C. sphaerospermum is known to thrive in high-radiation environments through a process called radiosynthesis.
- The results of the study suggest that a thin layer of the fungus could serve as an effective shield against cosmic radiation for astronauts.
Shunk et al.<p>Additionally, the fungus is self-replicating, meaning astronauts would potentially be able to "grow" new radiation shielding on deep-space missions, instead of having to rely on a costly and complicated interplanetary supply chain.</p><p>Still, the researchers weren't sure whether <em>C. sphaerospermum</em> would survive on the space station. Nils J.H. Averesch, a co-author of the <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.16.205534v1.full.pdf" target="_blank">study published on the preprint server bioRxiv</a>, told <a href="https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/fungus-that-eats-radiation-could-be-cosmic-ray-shield" target="_blank">SYFY WIRE</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"While on Earth, most sources of radiation are gamma- and/or X-rays; radiation in space and on Mars (also known as GCR or galactic cosmic radiation) is of a completely different kind and involves highly energetic particles, mostly protons. This radiation is even more destructive than X- and gamma-rays, so not even survival of the fungus on the ISS was a given."</p>
International Space Station
NASA<p>To be sure, the researchers said more research is needed, and that <em>C. sphaerospermum</em> would likely be used in combination with other radiation-shielding technology aboard spacecraft. But the findings highlight how relatively simple biotechnologies may offer outsized benefits on upcoming space missions.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Often nature has already developed blindly obvious yet surprisingly effective solutions to engineering and design problems faced as humankind evolves – C. sphaerospermum and melanin could thus prove to be invaluable in providing adequate protection of explorers on future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond," the researchers wrote.</p>
Shannon Lee shares lessons from her father in her new book, "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- Bruce Lee would have turned 80 years old on November 27, 2020. The legendary actor and martial artist's daughter, Shannon Lee, shares some of his wisdom and his philosophy on self help in a new book titled "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee."
- In this video, Shannon shares a story of the fight that led to her father beginning a deeper philosophical journey, and how that informed his unique expression of martial arts called Jeet Kune Do.
- One lesson passed down from Bruce Lee was his use and placement of physical symbols as a way to help "cement for yourself this new way of being, or this new lesson you've learned." By working on ourselves (with the right tools), we can develop the skills necessary to rise and conquer new challenges.
How to deal with "epistemic exhaustion."