Decline - 下降 - Xiàjiàng
Heavy fog hangs over the land,
growing darker day by day;
people have seen the signs before
but few recognize the dilemma.
Death does not care to wait
for mutual understanding.
Although we are currently heading into summer, and many warm months should await us, it is possible to see change on the horizon. So distant as to be nearly imperceptible, Winter's chill creeps ever closer on the back of cool autumn breezes. The fruit on the trees will ripen and fall. The leaves will eventually do the same as the forest prepares for lean months ahead. During the days that stretch longer and longer, it is easy to forget the inverse principle. Night will come for us all - it's already on the way.
Why do some of us (*most*) rarely plan for decline? We should realize the inevitability of collapse, and yet, we consider ourselves and our culture immortal. The Romans never expected to fall, Attila bled out at the peak of his power, and Alexander's empire was broken by the death of a single man. While these three examples are not sufficient to explain all of history, they do illustrate a tendency towards ignorance. Skill lessens over time as the body ages and activity wanes, but we are not always aware of this approaching infirmity. We too often realize too late, when our lack of activity has rendered us most resistant to healthy exercise. We are unprepared to pay the daily cost of maintaining flexibility and strength. The wise person perceives the moment when change is required and acts immediately to find a new course.
Summer does not fade to fall in a single day. Our actions should accord to the times. Just as decline from summer to fall is gradual, so too should our be our pace. Even though decline is approaching, we must gauge how quickly or slowly these events are occurring. If we are too hasty to act, we run the risk of overreacting. It is important to think of decline as natural and inevitable. Do not place excess emotional baggage upon the process, for it is no different than radioactive decay. It simply happens, and that is all.