“A terrible beauty is born.”

A terrible beauty is born.” WB Yeats

Yeats was writing about the first shots of the uprising that led to the Irish Republic following seven or eight hundred years as an English possession. Something was gone forever and no one could be quite sure what was next. But the change was inevitable and right.

These are weird times. A month of Metal Dragon – which recapitulates the dark uncertainties of 1940 – was always going to be testing. And the month that’s coming is a Metal Snake which recalls not just 1941 when the USA decided whose side they were on, but also 2001 which shook a peculiarly American confidence that had persisted through the Cold War. What all this implies is that we’re going to be lied to pretty consistently for a while yet. The Metal Snake is like that. And you’ll remember that in a 7 Gua year like this one, centralised power is not to be trusted. Yeats also wrote: “Things fall apart, the centre can not hold.”

Meanwhile we can be hopeful, safe and generous; we can avoid loitering in the East from whence whichever way we slice it, this pestilence has emerged; we can avoid the South East till May 6th and the tai chi or centre from then till June 6th. We can also revel in the yang energy of the bright weather which is a classical counter to the unsettling san sha in the South.

In 1988 I was unable to work for six weeks. I had five children to support and a decent-sized mortgage and as a self-employed person little prospect of state support. Had I known it would all work out – which it did – I could have relaxed and enjoyed what was a unique opportunity to just chill with my wife and kids.

The current unpleasantness is a little more extreme. No one knows for sure that they’re safe. Nor does anybody know what the world will be like, environmentally, socially, economically or politically when we emerge. The Book of Changes tells me we are at the beginning of an eight-month period of suspension. What will emerge at its end? There is no normal anymore.

Receive that as you will, what’s for sure is that this privation is among other things an opportunity. It’s a chance to re-think, to plan, to commune. For myself I’m holed up with my constant companion of 35 years. We’ve been together close to 24/7 all that time. For us things could be worse. And for many they are of course. But if I can relax and let my ideas of how things should be melt into how they are, we’ll land safely, I think.

I sometimes say that the best response to pretty much anything is a smile. Not always easy but I stand by it. I think of Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies, asked why he’s not flapping amid chaos. “Would it help?” he replies.

Be well,


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