Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Ideal

When visiting this blog, you will often find me quoting the ancient Taoist sages like Lao Tzu. If you visit a blog focused on one of the three Abrahanic religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- you will find quotes from the Torah, Bible and Koran, respectively. Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon or Wiccan blogs follow this very same tact by quoting their seminal texts.

Whether dealing with a religion or a philosophy, almost all the major thought/belief systems impart a similar message in their own terminology and jargon. That message is to subsume oneself by tapping into the flow of a deity, energy and/or power. Some try to achieve this perfect state through prayer, while others pursue it through meditation.

Since this is a Taoist blog, I'm going to approach this topic from the Taoist perspective.

Lao Tzu counsels us to empty ourselves into the vastness of Tao. He urges us to act by not acting consciously (wu wei) and to move with the flow of the universe. This is good advice, but I believe too many people err by taking this idea too literally. What Lao Tzu and others are referring to is an ideal; it's not something any of us can thoroughly attain in this lifetime.

From my perspective, it is humanly impossible to empty ourselves completely. While I believe that it's dubious, at best, that any person can empty their conscious mind for any sufficient length of time, even if I was to grant this was conceivable, it still doesn't address our subconscious.

A person's subconscious is like a subterranean stream. It flows and we know not where. Often, our actions, thoughts and behaviors are guided more by the subconscious than the conscious mind. Consequently, even if a person is able to blot away their conscious self in meditation, the subconscious self continues to direct our being.

It's the very same problem Christians run into when praying to the father. One has no way of knowing if the essence of their god is an actual other entity or merely the person's subconscious speaking through an imagined presence of another being.

I'm NOT suggesting that people shouldn't meditate to accept the flow of Tao or religious folks shouldn't pray to their deity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking an ideal. But a lot of the self-criticism and self-loathing I see in my fellow humans springs from the fact that they get down on themselves for not grasping the ideal in it's totality -- for not measuring up to an unrealistic concept of perfection.

To be human is to have a concept of self. That sense of self will always serve as an impenetrable boundary between the ideal and the reality of our earthly existence. We should try, whenever possible, to mitigate this sense of self to tap into the flow of Tao, but we shouldn't beat ourselves up when our efforts of mitigation take us only go so far.

1 comment:

  1. Hi R T

    Wow, tall order/ideal!!

    Especially when even the choice to empty into the universe is conscious and an attempt,to meet our needs.

    Long discussio in ths one ey?

    Love to you and Della


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