The Time Warrior: Refinement Through Endurance
Representing both the midday hour and the rise of summer, the Horse is yang energy incarnate. It is the image of the sun blazing at high noon and fruits ripening - an enduring source of fertility and abundance.
Yang Metal is represented by weaponry. Like an ax or sword, what begins as raw material becomes useful through heating, hammering and tempering. The process of continual pressure and refinement gives Yang Metal purpose and power. Coming together to create the great armored Horse, this month shows us the power to acquire great abundance through the development of concentrated, enduring force.
The Yang Metal horse is a great vehicle to carry out our desires and goals. When we learn how to drive and motivate this medium, we can orient our will towards self-imposed aspirations. We are learning about the process of refinement that can only occur through the capacity to endure, outlast and persevere. A gusty wind or violent storm may have awesome power in the moment, but does not last long. Like a river flowing into the vast ocean, what has been developing over time cannot easily evaporate and disappear. The ability to dedicate yourself leads to the power and potential to become a fully realized person.
What are the mechanisms that make endurance possible? The ancient kings in China had a water vessel that acted as a warning device, standing upright when empty and tipping over when full. This was a reminder that fullness will inevitably lead to decline. When the sun rises, the moon sets; when happiness ends, one is sad. To develop constancy in any one thing, you must protect and temper it from reaching capacity. For instance, ignorance engenders knowledge. Martial power and courage is preserved by fear. Satiety cannot continue without hunger. So in order to use anything fully, you must take the path of not being full.
We have entered the month of the Time Warrior: understanding how to use time as a primary partner and collaborator. This month we are becoming an endurance artist, where we learn to create our lives using time as our medium. Endurance generates power through friction - the longer the time, the more there is to push against. This is another way of understanding how to temper fullness: we develop constancy through the principles of resistance.
This month we are learning the difference between material power and spiritual power. Material power is demonstrated through full, sudden force. Spiritual power is achieved through development, or force over time. Every time we meet true adversity in our lives - when no amount of physical power can transform the situation and we surrender to time itself - we come out the other side having gained soul force. Soul force is not just about surrendering to one’s circumstances, however. It is an inner warriorship, which can also be utilized as a political strategy for creating transformational social and spiritual change. Examples can been seen through Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who demonstrated the principle of soul force through non-violent resistance.
By contrast, how do we know when we have tipped into unhealthy endurance, or endurism? Endurism is an attachment to closure and fullness, the desire for an end result at any cost. Endurance on the other hand, is motivated by refinement, engaging in a distillation process of the self and the situation. One is additive, the other reductive. Endurance is a practice in trust, where meaning and resolution are emergent and creative. Endurism relies on gripping and white-knuckling, a process that closes and numbs the self. It becomes an act of tolerance, normalizing suffering by resisting change. Conversely, endurance is a process of adaptation, requiring openness to create change. Because transformation naturally occurs through continual refinement, the need to endure will instinctively come to an end.
In ritual terms, refinement through endurance is the offering one makes, which invokes blessings from the ancestors. It is the sacrifice one performs, such as the painstaking process of cultivating and stewarding the land so that one can reap the profit of ripened crops. It suggests success and pleasure when the human world and ancestral world are connected through the sacrifice of a cooked meal. In ancient times, this was done through the dǐng 鼎: a cast bronze sacrificial vessel. Often covered with animal imagery, this cauldron cooked the ritual meal to be offered to the spirits.
When we give endurance ritual attention, we fix symbols and omens from spirit, giving them staying power in our lives. This month, your situation is a meal that needs to be cooked, your offering which connects you to the ancestors. The Time Warrior is your dǐng, the vessel of time that prepares your sacrifice. You are learning the sensibilities required to recognize when a moment is undercooked or overdone. We refine the self by cultivating our willpower and learn constancy by measuring when to persist and when to be flexible. Remember the path of refinement does not want fullness: endurance is preserved by hesitation; steadiness is preserved by rhythm. The ability to endure and last is illustrated in this statement by the Daoist classic, the Wénzǐ: “A river can go far because it goes along twisting and turning. A mountain can go high because it slopes.”