Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tao Bible - Matthew 5:38-41

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
~ King James version ~

After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain.
What can one do about it?
Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain
But does not exact his due.
A man of Virtue performs his part,
But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfill their obligations.
~ from Verse 79 of the Tao Te Ching ~
I generally try not to use the same TTC citation within a week's time, but it fits here just as well as it did for the entry on Matthew 5:25 (my commentary is the same as well), so...

It must be remembered that I am juxtaposing the TTC, a work of 81 short verses, (with a few citations from the Zhuangzi) versus a document of thousands upon thousands of words. You have to expect a few repeats here and there. ;-)

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Chapter 19B - Doctrine of the Mean

"They occupied the places of their forefathers, practiced their ceremonies, and performed their music. They reverenced those whom they honored, and loved those whom they regarded with affection. Thus they served the dead as they would have served them alive; they served the departed as they would have served them had they been continued among them.

"By the ceremonies of the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth they served God, and by the ceremonies of the ancestral temple they sacrificed to their ancestors. He who understands the ceremonies of the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, and the meaning of the several sacrifices to ancestors, would find the government of a kingdom as easy as to look into his palm!"
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

Indefinitely Yours

Trey Smith

There has been a lot of discussion in the mainstream and alternative press about the recent promulgation of various laws and rules that have enshrined the concept of indefinite detention. In this instance, we're not referring to individuals who have been tried and convicted in some sort of a court of law -- civil or military -- and then sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. No, indefinite detention simply concerns individuals suspected of a crime and held indefinitely WITHOUT trial or conviction.

Most of us don't spend too much time thinking about indefinite detention simply because it doesn't impact us specifically and we personally don't know anyone for which it does. It's more of a clinical term that we might disagree with on legal or philosophical grounds, but that's about as far as it goes.

It involves the lives of faceless strangers who live in a different "world" than we do. Consequently, it's difficult for most of us to envision it in real terms. So, I thought I would construct an analogy that many of us can readily identify with. It's not a perfect analogy, but what the hey.

Let's say you are the parent of a son or daughter who is the victim of teasing and bullying. You report this situation to the school authorities, but nothing much is done about it. One day your child is cornered in a school hallway by a group of bullies who proceed to rough up and make fun of your son or daughter. As the one-sided skirmish breaks up, your child, in complete exasperation, yells, "You all better watch out or one day I'm going to blow up this stinking school with all of you in it!"

A teacher who did not witness the skirmish hears this "threat." She reports it to the principal and, before you know it, your child is suspended indefinitely. Try as you might, no one from the school will meet with to explain why an indefinite suspension was handed out or how you can get it rescinded or modified. You aren't even provided with a list of conditions your child must meet to have the suspension lifted at a later date.

After a few days or weeks of butting your head against a brick wall, you decide to enroll your child in a different school across town. Unfortunately, you discover that the suspension applies to ALL schools in your community. In fact, you later learn that it applies to ALL schools across the country! Not only is your child prohibited from going to school, but he/she is not allowed to participate in home schooling, earn a GED...or get a job.

No matter how hard you work to try to get some sort of hearing or meeting, everyone stonewalls you. When all is said and done, your child is left in limbo. No legal charges have been brought against him/her, yet your child is TREATED like a convicted criminal or a social pariah.

Would you be okay with such a scenario?

Afternoon Matinee: Close To You - The Story of The Carpenters 2/5

Admitting a Truth That We Already Knew

Trey Smith

We previously saw how Orthodox Jews in New York prevailed upon the government to get rid of bike lanes in their neighborhoods to protect them from the sight of women on bikes. Now almost 40,000 men gathered in Citi Field to call for an end to the Internet as a danger to their faith. Women, of course, were not allowed to attend because that would also be an affront. They were allowed to guessed it...on the Internet.

The seven hour event cost $1.5 million and featured prominent Jewish leaders who railed against the Internet as corrupting the faithful by exposing them to outside ideas and influences. One participant is quoted as denouncing “unadulterated freedom” as a threat to religion.
~ from The Evil of “Unadulterated Freedom”: Roughly 40,000 Orthodox Jewish Men Gather In New York Stadium To Denounce The Internet by Jonathan Turley ~
It's refreshing to see a religious zealot admit to a truth that most of us had already caught on to. Fundamentalists -- of any creed, ideology or "brand" -- are terrified of the free-flow of information!

Conservative belief systems, by their very nature, are all about controlling people. The powers within said belief systems believe that they alone should get to tell their followers what to think, say and do. As long as they are able to operate a closed system, the faithful follow their every command and dictate like lobotomized sheep.

This is why they fear "unholy" things like the internet! One of the sheep may wake up from their slumber to start thinking for themselves! They might start asking questions the powers can't or don't want to answer. They might put forth different ideas. If one sheep can do this, a few more may do it as well. In time, if you don't stamp out the free-flow of information, the sheep might get together to start an insurrection!

So, to avoid this potentiality, the leaders go out out of their way to keep people as ignorant as humanly possible...because ignorant people are more easily controlled.

Line by Line - Verse 70, Lines 1-2

My words are very easy to know, and very easy to practice; but there is no one in the world who is able to know and able to practice them.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

My words are easy to understand and easy to perform,
Yet no man under heaven knows them or practices them.

~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

My words are easy to understand, easy to practice
The world cannot understand, cannot practice

~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Lao Tzu's advice
was easy to understand
and easy to follow.
But nobody understood him
or did what he suggested.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
The Tao Te Ching -- like so many other religious and/or philosophic works -- points to ideals. An ideal is the human conception of absolute perfection. It is an elusive idea that someone (somewhere along the line) made up.

Ideals imagine a world that is neat, tidy and completely well ordered. I don't know about you, but that's not the way I would describe the world we live in! As Scott has written on more than one occasion, life is messy and we each live in our own mess!

This is not to say that ideals serve no purpose. If nothing else, they represent behaviors to aim long as we don't strive for them (which sort defeats the whole purpose).

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Dying for [In]Justice

Trey Smith

The US criminal justice system is a broken machine that wrongfully convicts innocent people, sentencing thousands of people to prison or to death for the crimes of others, as a new study reveals. The University of Michigan law school and Northwestern University have compiled a new National Registry of Exonerations – a database of over 2,000 prisoners exonerated between 1989 and the present day, when DNA evidence has been widely used to clear the names of innocent people convicted of rape and murder. Of these, 885 have profiles developed for the registry's website,

The details are shocking. Death row inmates were exonerated nine times more frequently than others convicted of murder. One-fourth of those exonerated of murder had received a death sentence, while half of those who had been wrongfully convicted of rape or murder faced death or a life behind bars. Ten of the inmates went to their grave before their names were cleared.

The leading causes of wrongful convictions include perjury, flawed eyewitness identification and prosecutorial misconduct. For those who have placed unequivocal faith in the US criminal justice system and believe that all condemned prisoners are guilty of the crime of which they were convicted, the data must make for a rude awakening.
~ from How America's Death Penalty Murders Innocents by David A. Love ~
Each time then-President Bush or current-President Obama promoted or issued new legislation and rules that chip away at our constitutional freedoms, I hear people say, "If you're not guilty of anything, why worry about it?" Just as this article points out, many people mistakenly believe that only the guilty have anything to fear!

Since human systems make grievous errors -- purposeful and innocent -- the state has no business executing people. From my perspective, it is far better to lock up convicted killers, pedophiles and rapists for life as a safeguard to insure that one innocent individual is not put to death erroneously.

When we execute people who are later shown to be innocent of the crime they were convicted of, you can't call for a do-over. You can't say, "Oops! Our bad. Sorry 'bout that." Sure, you can issue a heartfelt apology and, possibly, financially compensate the grieving family of the deceased, but there is nothing you can do for the individual whose life you have taken. It's gone into the ether.

Put yourself in the place of a wrongly condemned person. You KNOW you are innocent of the crime you've been convicted of, but few people believe you. Do you think it will make you feel better -- as they march you off to the gallows -- to know that one day your name, nothing else, will be exonerated? Would that provide you with peace of mind as the lethal drugs flow into your veins or high voltage electricity courses through your body?

Me thinks not!

Chapter 19A - Doctrine of the Mean

The Master said, "How far-extending was the filial piety of king Wû and the duke of Châu!

"Now filial piety is seen in the skillful carrying out of the wishes of our forefathers, and the skillful carrying forward of their undertakings.

"In spring and autumn, they repaired and beautified the temple halls of their fathers, set forth their ancestral vessels, displayed their various robes, and presented the offerings of the several seasons.

"By means of the ceremonies of the ancestral temple, they distinguished the royal kindred according to their order of descent. By ordering the parties present according to their rank, they distinguished the more noble and the less. By the arrangement of the services, they made a distinction of talents and worth. In the ceremony of general pledging, the inferiors presented the cup to their superiors, and thus something was given the lowest to do. At the concluding feast, places were given according to the hair, and thus was made the distinction of years.
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

Daily Tao - Big Inflated Ego

The ego is not real but it is a useful form of measurement.

The size of the ego defines the separation between self and true self.

The larger it gets the more the true self is hidden. And so the more the ego inflates to fill an every growing gulf - of its own making.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

Loving What Is

Scott Bradley

Loving What Is is the title of a book by Byron Katie. The title alone sums up the practical side of not only her philosophy, but that of philosophical Daoism. "What is" is reality. And Katie calls herself "a lover of reality".

I have used the lower case, "reality", but I might just as well have written it "Reality". Lower case reality is Reality. Dao is what happens. Though Dao may be Nameless, it is also the Mother of the Named, and these "two", according to the Laozi, are "the same". If we would "Walk Two Roads", both aspects of the Totality must inform us. Daoism is not a flight from reality, but an encounter with Reality facilitated by our acceptance of reality.

Failing of this, we suffer. But that, too, is reality. Our apparent reality is full of good times, as well as suffering, but they have no discernable foundation and thus must ultimately succumb to suffering. Kierkegaard likened this precarious condition to sewing without having put a knot at the end of the thread; however elaborate our creations, they all unravel even as we sew.

We are the cause of our own suffering. If someone hurts our feelings, we are the cause of the hurt, not someone else. It is how we respond to reality (someone else's unkindness) that causes the hurt; that same unkindness could also be an impetus to joy. If this seems counter-intuitive and ass-backwards, good — we have found a place of traction by which to overturn what passes for normalcy. Everything is ultimately a matter of how we choose to interpret it.

Katie focuses on belief in our thoughts as the cause of this suffering. I believe someone has hurt me, because I believe there is a 'me' to be hurt, that words can hurt, that whatever they said cannot be true (because it hurts), that if it is true, it is more than I can face, etc. She would have us examine our thoughts so as to develop new, non-suffering thoughts. It's never a question of trying to eliminate thoughts, just to bring them into accord with reality.

Ah, but what is reality? It is Reality. And this we have, hopefully, experienced as Good; we have said Yes to what is, affirmed the Totality, "abandoned" ourselves to "the Vastness at the root of things". In the context of Dao, how could anything harm us? How could anything fail to be a teacher leading us further into the release of acceptance?

This unnecessary suffering is a near universal reality of human experience. This, too, is Dao. Dao is what is. And what” is” is what happens. Shit also happens. Dao did not "do" it, so it would be ridiculous to "blame" it. I'm all for calling Dao "God", only before we can do so we must put a holly stake through "his" heart, or at least through the heart of our "discriminating consciousness" which thinks only in terms of right and wrong, cause and effect, me and other. Failing of this, we suffer. So what? So, we suffer. Only, if we can realize this manifestation of Dao, we can experience another, peace and joy. In either case, nothing was ever required of us; there are no conditions which must be met to be who and what we are (sufferer or joyous one), which can only and always be Dao.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Question - Why Do Christians Swear?

Trey Smith

We've all watched the dramatic courtroom scene -- both real and theatrical -- in which the witness raises their right hand and the bailiff asks, "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" Once the witness says, "I do," the examination begins.

But why do Christians swear when Jesus is purported to have told them not to? It's written very clearly in Matthew 5:33-37.
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
It seems to me that Jesus is urging people to be honest in everything they say, so that "swearing to tell the truth" would be superfluous.

Now we all know that humans can be dishonest when it suits our purposes. So, it easily can be argued that the act of taking an oath is a strictly legal instrument that can be utilized to indict us, if it is later discovered that we were lying. While that may be true, Jesus specifically says not to swear by heaven and, by extension, of God himself. Yet, for as long as I can remember, in the US, this so-called Christian nation has added the words "so help me God" to legal oaths.

Doesn't this addition explicitly contradict the words of the savior?

To see what other questions I've asked about the Christian Bible, go here.

Chapter 18B - Doctrine of the Mean

"It was in his old age that king Wû received the appointment to the throne, and the duke of Châu completed the virtuous course of Wan and Wû. He carried up the title of king to T'âi and Chî, and sacrificed to all the former dukes above them with the royal ceremonies. And this rule he extended to the princes of the kingdom, the great officers, the scholars, and the common people. If the father were a great officer and the son a scholar, then the burial was that due to a great officer, and the sacrifice that due to a scholar. If the father were a scholar and the son a great officer, then the burial was that due to a scholar, and the sacrifice that due to a great officer. The one year's mourning was made to extend only to the great officers, but the three years' mourning extended to the Son of Heaven. In the mourning for a father or mother, he allowed no difference between the noble and the mean."
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

Huainanzi - Entry 73

Trey Smith

When sternness is overextended, it becomes ferocity; and if you are fierce, you lack gentility.
~ a passage from
The Book of Leadership and Strategy by Thomas Cleary ~
In my time as a child abuse investigator, one of the issues I confronted with some parents is that there is a difference between "physical" discipline and abuse. The former is based on trying to get a specific lesson across and utilizing the least amount of force possible. The latter, on the other hand, tends to be an angry response to a perceived transgression and the level of force is somewhat or completely unrestrained.

In one case, a stepfather beat his developmentally-disabled stepson with a baseball bat because the boy missed the toilet when trying to pee (a common problem, it turns out, due to several of the boy's physical deformities). The man argued that he was trying to get a specific point across: aim better. However, the ferocity of his "discipline" method blotted out the message entirely. All it did was make the young man more nervous and anxious each time he needed to go to the bathroom and his "nervousness" made the outcome his stepfather didn't desire far more likely!

To read the introduction to this ongoing series, go here.

Afternoon Matinee: Close To You - The Story of The Carpenters 1/5

Be Careful Who You Criticize

Trey Smith

We all know that Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s former firm, is the paragon of capitalist evil, destroying the middle class in order to enrich greedy vulture oligarchs. We also all know that the Democratic Party is the defender of the middle class and the bold adversary of corporate pillaging. That’s why these facts generate so much cognitive dissonance:
Democrats have accepted more political donations than Republicans from executives at Bain Capital, complicating the left’s plan to attack Mitt Romney for his record at the private-equity firm.

During the last three election cycles, Bain employees have given Democratic candidates and party committees more than $1.2 million. The vast majority of that sum came from senior executives.

Republican candidates and party committees raised over $480,000 from senior Bain executives during that time period.
While Romney himself has received more contributions from his former firm than Obama has, “President Obama received a sizable share as well.” More generally, “campaign finance records show that Democrats collect more money from Wall Street than does the GOP.”

Why would these cunning Master of the Universe villains want so robustly to fund a party that is so adverse to their interests? The only coherent answer is that the party which they’re funding is anything but adverse to their interests.
~ from Democrats and Bain by Glenn Greenwald ~
Information like this goes a long way toward proving that national politics is little more than smoke-and-mirrors. The President and his fellow Democrats skewer Mitt Romney for his connection to Bain Capital, while...ahem...accepting contributions from that same firm hand over fist!

But the last paragraph above is the real kicker. Democrats are painting themselves as the party of the 99 percent, yet they are receiving bigger handouts than the Republicans from the 1 percent. So, who do you think the so-called liberals will go to bat for when push comes to shove?

If you think it's you, then might I suggest a mental health counselor to help you work through your delusions?

Line by Line - Verse 69, Lines 10-11

Thus it is that when opposing weapons are (actually) crossed, he who deplores (the situation) conquers.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Therefore when the battle is joined,
The underdog will win.

~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

So when evenly matched armies meet
The side that is compassionate shall win

~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

When two forces oppose each other,
the winner is the one most reluctant to fight.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
I think Ron Hogan really nails this one!

People or nations that constantly are ready for war are losers, regardless of whether or not they win or lose their battles. War represents a failure of the human imagination and, if that's all you seem to be "good" at, what does that say about you?

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Bee Very Concerned!

Trey Smith

Newly published scientific evidence is bolstering calls for greater regulation of some of the world’s most widely used pesticides and genetically modified crops.

Earlier this year, three independent studies linked agricultural insecticides to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that leads honeybees to abandon their hives.

Beekeepers have reported alarming losses in their hives over the last six years. The USDA reports the loss in the United States was about 30 percent in the winter of 2010-2011.

Bees are crucial pollinators in the ecosystem. Their loss also impacts the estimated $15 billion worth of fruit and vegetable crops that are pollinated by bees in the United States.

The studies, conducted in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, all pointed to neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals used widely in U.S. corn production, as likely contributors to colony collapse disorder. The findings challenged the EPA’s position—based on studies by Bayer CropScience, a major producer of the neonicotinoid clothianidin — that bees are only exposed to small, benign amounts of these insecticides.
~ from A Last (Chemical) Gasp for Bees? by Shannan Stoll ~
Here's a thought to think about: No bees, no food! It's probably not quite THAT dramatic, but bees play a critical role in the viability of human life. If bees were to become extinct, we would all be in a world of hurt!

Since this is a simple truth understood by scientists, why would some of them turn a blind eye?

The answer is twofold. The first, of course, is about money. The corporations that manufacture and sell neonicotinoids don't want to lose their cash cow! The insecticides they peddle have made them very rich and they like being very rich. If their being rich means danger to our shared ecosystem, then that's the price we all must pay.

I suspect the second reason is that these same folks believe that technology will save us. If all the bees die off, then they magically will invent some new [vile] substance to take the place of bees in the pollination process.

Me thinks Mother Nature will not be amused and will show these greedy dunderheads that she is not the kind of person to mess with. I think her message will be crystal clear: You want to kill my bees? Fine. Then you won't eat!

Chapter 18A - Doctrine of the Mean

The Master said, "It is only king Wan of whom it can be said that he had no cause for grief! His father was king Chî, and his son was king Wû. His father laid the foundations of his dignity, and his son transmitted it.

"King Wû continued the enterprise of king T'âi, king Chî, and king Wan. He once buckled on his armor, and got possession of the kingdom. He did not lose the distinguished personal reputation which he had throughout the kingdom. His dignity was the royal throne. His riches were the possession of all within the four seas. He offered his sacrifices in his ancestral temple, and his descendants maintained the sacrifices to himself.
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

Daily Tao - Memory Master

He was said to have the best memory of all.

It had nothing in it.

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

Plaguing Others

Scott Bradley

The fourth of the Inner Chapters of the Zhuangzi (those generally assumed to have actually been written by Zhuangzi (ca. 369-286 B.C.E.)) begins with an extensive, hypothetical conversation between Confucius and his favorite disciple, Yan Hui. Yan wishes to go set right a tyrannical ruler of a nearby kingdom by "applying" the principles Confucius has taught him. Confucius will have none of it; Yan is not yet ready.

"The Consummate Persons of old made sure they had it in themselves," says Confucius, "before they tried to put it into others." (4:3; Ziporyn) Principles are not something exterior to ourselves that we apply; they are something we are, and until we are what we wish to preach, we have no business preaching at all.

You were expecting me to shut up at this point? Well, my excuse is that I am teaching myself in public, not proclaiming "the" Way. Still, I am in some sense 'committing yang', putting forth ideas I have not fully realized and generally materializing an egoic presence which can (and has) impinge(d) upon other egoic presences. Such is life: messy.

"Confucius" calls applying to others principles which one has not personally realized, "plaguing others". And the consequence of plaguing others is being plagued by others in return. If others do not accept what we have to say, there is only one place to look for the cause, ourselves. I have previously quoted Mencius in this regard: "If others do not respond to your love with love, look into your own benevolence; if others fail to respond to your attempts to govern them, look into your own wisdom; . . . . In other words, look into yourself whenever you fail to achieve your purpose" (Mencius, IV A 3).

Zhuangzi's Confucius cuts right to the heart of this inclination to apply principles to, preach to, and govern others. "Virtuosity [te] is undermined by getting a name for it. Cleverness [zhi; wisdom, knowledge] comes forth from conflict. For a good name is essentially a way for people to one-up each other, and cleverness is most essentially a weapon for winning a fight. Both are inauspicious implements, not the kind of thing that can be used to perfect your own behavior." All this equates to the essential of egoic behavior — trying to be somebody. It can neither perfect the behavior of others nor accomplish the true work, perfecting one's own.

"Confucius" eventually leads Yan to the realization that his first responsibility is to learn freedom from self. And this he does when he discovers and surrenders into his own essential emptiness, the very conduit for the expression of Dao, and proclaims, "it turns out that 'myself' has never begun to exist" (4:10).

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Question - Why Do Christians Get Divorced?

Trey Smith

Divorce -- legal dissolution of a marriage -- is very prevalent in American society. The most recent data indicates that about one-half of all marriages end in divorce. Couples from all faiths or no faith regularly divorce. My question is: Why do Christians sanction divorce just as non-believers do?

I ask this in light of Matthew 5:31-32.
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
That seems very clear to me. Unless you catch your spouse screwing someone else, divorce is off the table! Since being an adulterer is a big no-no -- it's one of the 10 Commandments -- how can a Christian claim to follow Jesus IF they can't bother to abide by a very direct and straightforward prohibition?

Just as important, why do most Christian churches sanction -- or look the other way -- when it comes to the issue of divorce? There are many prominent ministers, church leaders and faith-based politicians and celebrities who have divorced (for reasons other than fornication) and even remarried. Why aren't they automatically shunned (or stoned, for that matter) as adulterers?

To see what other questions I've asked about the Christian Bible, go here.

Chapter 17 - Doctrine of the Mean

The Master said, "How greatly filial was Shun! His virtue was that of a sage; his dignity was the throne; his riches were all within the four seas. He offered his sacrifices in his ancestral temple, and his descendants preserved the sacrifices to himself.

"Therefore having such great virtue, it could not but be that he should obtain the throne, that he should obtain those riches, that he should obtain his fame, that he should attain to his long life.

"Thus it is that Heaven, in the production of things, is sure to be bountiful to them, according to their qualities. Hence the tree that is flourishing, it nourishes, while that which is ready to fall, it overthrows.

"In the Book of Poetry, it is said, 'The admirable, amiable prince displayed conspicuously his excelling virtue, adjusting his people, and adjusting his officers. Therefore, he received from Heaven his emoluments of dignity. It protected him, assisted him, decreed him the throne; sending from Heaven these favors, as it were repeatedly.'

"We may say therefore that he who is greatly virtuous will be sure to receive the appointment of Heaven."
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

Poor Poor Pitiful Me

Trey Smith

In my last post, Weigh on Down, I briefly discussed the challenge the chronic pain sufferer must deal with to ward off depression. Of course, the other part of the issue is fighting the urge to feel sorry for yourself.

Let's face it. We all do it. At different points in our life, things don't go as well as we might like. Sometimes our problems are of our own making and sometimes it's just the luck of the draw. Regardless of which one it is -- it often is a combination of both -- we get to thinking that the stars are conspiring against us and experiencing great glee at our travails and misfortune.

Since we are each self-centered and self-focused, we tend to view all the aspects of life through the prism of me. If the grandiose me isn't getting what it desires, then it tends to be mad at the world writ large and to coddle itself for being so "unfairly" impinged upon!

This kind of attitude is easy for the chronic sufferer of pain to fall into. For most of us, this isn't the kind of existence we asked for. Most of us are powerless to stop or lessen the pain or infirmity to a significant degree. All we know is that, by the luck of the draw, we have become a prisoner that is chained to it and, in some cases, it amounts to a life sentence.

So, how do we ward off self-pity? There is no one magic formula. Each one of us must dig deep to find our own answer.

In my particular case, being an individual who does not believe in an afterlife, I reckon that this is my one chance at life. Regardless of the hand I've drawn, I need to live this one life to the fullest extent possible, even if the fullest extent is damn meager.

I didn't ask for this life -- the Grand Mystery decided that for me and nature will take me away when it deems the time is appropriate. Between these two points on the continuum is my time to make the best of things...the best that I can.

Afternoon Matinee: Human Nature As an Evolved Creature 2/2

Weigh On Down

Trey Smith

For those of you who live with chronic pain, this post will in no way provide any sort of revelation. You know as well as I do that one of the great challenges to life is staying upbeat. Constant pain has a way of wearing you down; it is a weight that is seldom relieved.

Our mind and bodies feed off of each other. When the former is bound up in tension and anxiety, we often suffer physically. It is just as true the other way around. When our body is wracked with pain, it can disturb the mind.

Part of the problem is that we feel like a shell of our former selves. Many of us can remember times -- some not that long ago -- when we were more active. We can recall times when gardening, cooking, helping a neighbor with a strenuous project or playing with the grandkids was easily within our reach. We can remember when getting out of bed, dressing ourselves or bathing was a run-of-the-mill activity.

Chronic pain, particularly the kind that grows progressively worse, robs us of our ability to be independent actors. We are forced to rely on others more, even to perform once routine tasks. After a while, it's hard not to feel that we've become a burden to our friends and family.

And so, it's a constant struggle to keep ourselves from falling into depression. It's a constant fight not to throw up our hands and wave the final white flag.

Line by Line - Verse 69, Line 9

To do that is near losing (the gentleness) which is so precious.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

By underestimating the enemy, I almost lost what I value.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Underestimating the enemy almost made me lose my treasures
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

[No corresponding line]
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Derek Lin takes this line and applies it to current society.
Many people believe that overwhelming aggression wins respect. This belief forms the basis of the "shock and awe" military strategy. History shows that it simply does not work. Aggression succeeds only in planting the seeds of subsequent retaliation. It is wisdom and restraint that win respect and admiration, not force.
Hence, the so-called "War on Terror" cannot be won. It only plants the seeds for more terror by all sides!

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go

Killing the Messenger

Trey Smith

It seems the old adage is true: Nobody likes a snitch! This sentiment especially is true of those in power. They don't like their shenanigans exposed to the public, particularly when such exposure places them in a bad light and suggests some degree of dishonesty, corruption or lawlessness.

But something in our world has changed over the past generation or two. It used to be that the information released by whistleblowers led to some recriminations plus efforts to ensure that the dubious or nefarious activities exposed would not be repeated again (think of the Pentagon Papers). Today, however, that's not what occurs at all. Instead of looking at the misdeeds exposed, the powers that be go out of their way to go after the messenger, the whistleblower!

As statistics show, the Obama administration has gone after more whistleblowers -- folks exposing government dishonesty, illegality and/or malfeasance -- than all previous presidential administrations combined! Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks are the poster children of these efforts. At the same time, they willfully have chosen NOT to investigate any of the "crimes" exposed nor punish anyone responsible for them.

This is not simply a US problem either. This same scenario is playing out in Vatican City. The butler for the Pope has been arrested for leaking documents to the Italian press that include "allegations of corruption, mismanagement and cronyism in the awarding of contracts for work in the Vatican and internal disagreement on the management of the Vatican bank."

Since this is a Christian organization -- one that follows in the footsteps of a certain Jewish carpenter -- they must be handling the situation far differently than Barack Obama, right? No way! The powers in the church vehemently have attacked the butler and one higher up stated that, like Jesus, the Pope has been betrayed by his own Judas!

All attention has been focused on the messenger and not on the activities he exposed. The Vatican has been working hard to sweep their dirty laundry back under the rug in the hope that nobody notices the huge lump in the carpet!!

Chapter 16 - Doctrine of the Mean

The Master said, "How abundantly do spiritual beings display the powers that belong to them!

"We look for them, but do not see them; we listen to, but do not hear them; yet they enter into all things, and there is nothing without them.

"They cause all the people in the kingdom to fast and purify themselves, and array themselves in their richest dresses, in order to attend at their sacrifices. Then, like overflowing water, they seem to be over the heads, and on the right and left of their worshipers.

"It is said in the Book of Poetry, 'The approaches of the spirits, you cannot surmise; and can you treat them with indifference?'

"Such is the manifestness of what is minute! Such is the impossibility of repressing the outgoings of sincerity!"
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

Daily Tao - Look Back

You're looking for something,

That if you did not already have,

You'd be unable to begin in looking,

See ?

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

How Things Are

Scott Bradley

Zhuangzi relates a story about the wake of Lao Dan (Laozi) in which one of his admirers, Qin Shi, arrives to participate in the mourning, but after a few quick expressions of grief, precipitously departs. Qin's disciple enquires as to whether he did not love the deceased and how such an apparently superficial expression of grief could reflect that love. The master replies that he expected to find mourners there who exemplified the teaching of Lao Dan, but instead he found an excessive expression of grief, a clear indication that they had failed to realize his teaching. He departed for fear that he, too, should get caught up in such folly.

(Some translators put the blame on Lao Dan for having acquired adulating and dependent disciples, rather than ones free of such excessive attachments. Ziporyn's translation seems to me the more likely meaning.)

Qin Shi explains that succumbing to this overflowing of grief, "would be to flee from the Heavenly and turn away from how things are." (Zhuangzi, 3:8; Ziporyn) Lao Dan, for his part, embraced the unavoidable with equanimity: "When the time came to go, he followed along with the flow. Resting content in the time and finding his place in the flow, joy and sorrow had no way to seep in." These mourners took death as a great tragedy, but he for whom they mourned understood it to be just one more transformation within the flow of endless transformation. He had effectively "put life and death outside himself".

There is something special about the inevitability of death; nothing serves better to bring us face to face with "the Heavenly". The Heavenly is that which is given, beyond knowing the what and the why of it; it is "how things are". Some might fear and flee it; Daoism embraces it as a means to liberation in life.

Death, though the most powerful example of the unavoidable, is not the only expression of "how things are". Indeed, every moment of our existence is nothing more than an encounter with the inevitable. It might be that our present circumstances were avoidable, but that does not change their present unavoidability. These, too, are thus an invitation to release and liberation through acceptance, affirmation and thankfulness. They are, each one, an opportunity to transcendence, an opportunity to flow without resistance.

It is normal that we should mourn the loss of someone loved; grief and sorrow, like joy and gladness, are authentic human expressions. Only to be balanced and healthy, they must also be informed by that open-ended 'bigger picture' which renders them relative. We mourn the loss of a loved-one, but we understand, too, that nothing is truly ever lost in Vastness.

The most authentic human expressions are both intensely experienced and transcended. Writes Fang Yizhi (1611-1671): “When he is sad, it is a sadness in which neither happiness nor sadness can get at him. Happiness is the certainly happiness, but sadness is also a kind of happiness.”

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tao Bible - Matthew 5:29

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
~ King James version ~

Love of colors bewilders the eye and it fails to see right.
Love of harmonies bewitches the ear, and it loses its true hearing.
Love of perfumes fills the head with dizziness.
Love of flavors ruins the taste.
Desires unsettle the heart until the original nature runs amok.
~ from Chapter 12 of the Zhuangzi ~
When we allow our insatiable desires to rule the roost, we so cover up the divine within us/our inner nature that we create our own anguish and misery. Keep those unmitigated desires in check and our lives will flow much smoother.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Chapter 15 - Doctrine of the Mean

The way of the superior man may be compared to what takes place in traveling, when to go to a distance we must first traverse the space that is near, and in ascending a height, when we must begin from the lower ground.

It is said in the Book of Poetry, "Happy union with wife and children is like the music of lutes and harps. When there is concord among brethren, the harmony is delightful and enduring. Thus may you regulate your family, and enjoy the pleasure of your wife and children."

The Master said, "In such a state of things, parents have entire complacence!"
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

Such a Flirt!

Trey Smith

A while back, I was up visiting my buddy Paul at his mini mart. Being the close friend of the owner means I get to sit behind the counter. When people come in, I sometimes take part in the banter between the staff and the customers.

After one particular customer left, Dan (the night stocker, not stalker) remarked that the woman had been flirting up a storm with me. He kiddingly chastised me for flirting back because "you're a married guy!"

But here's the thing: I wasn't aware that any flirting was going on! From my perspective, all we were doing was shooting the breeze.

In all honesty, I don't understand flirting at all. While I certainly understand the dictionary definition of the word, I can't spot it in real time in real life. What others consider to be flirting, I consider to be simply talking and I tend to relate to people the same way regardless of their gender, age or level of physical attractiveness.

From reviewing the literature, I realize this is related to my autism. It is because I don't read people well (or at all!) that I can't tell when a woman is expressing interest -- casual or serious -- in me. I tend to take things at face value and, unless someone straightforwardly expresses a direct interest in an intimate and/or sexual relationship, I'm certain to miss the obvious hints.

In our society -- though this is changing -- the guy is expected to make the first move. In ALL of my dating experiences years ago, I NEVER made the first move. The gal I was with either had to kiss me first or ask me why I wasn't trying to kiss her. If the latter, I would ask if she wanted me to kiss her and, on more than one occasion, the answer was Duh!

Of course, being a long-time married bloke, this isn't that important of an issue in my life right now. It's really immaterial if a woman flirts with me or not. I'm not in the market for an extramarital affair. But I often wonder that, if Della was to die in the next few years, I might be back on the market. I would be just as lost in the world of women and dating as I was in my youth.

That would create a lot of anxiety, so I've told my dear wife that she is not allowed to depart this world until I'm of an age that it doesn't matter anymore. ;-)

Afternoon Matinee: Human Nature As an Evolved Creature 1/2

Government Does Not Like Small-Time Thieves

Trey Smith

Food stamp recipients are ripping off the government for millions of dollars by illegally selling their benefit cards for cash — sometimes even in the open, on eBay or Craigslist — and then asking the government for replacement cards.

The Agriculture Department wants to curb the practice by giving states more power to investigate people who repeatedly claim to lose their benefit cards.

It is proposing new rules Thursday that would allow states to demand formal explanations from people who seek replacement cards more than three times a year. Those who don't comply can be denied further cards.
~ from Food Stamp Fraud Raising Concerns in Gov't Offices by Sam Hananel ~
On the surface, this doesn't sound like a bad solution for a growing and vexing problem. If a large number of people are trying to defraud the government, then the government should go after them. But dig a little deeper and it raises some salient questions.

First off, is this type of Food Stamp fraud prevalent? Further down in this report we're told that
Most fraud occurs when unscrupulous retailers allow customers to turn in their benefits cards for lesser amounts of cash.
Now the word most is a nebulous term, but it does indicate more than 50 percent. So, this type of fraud is the lesser of the two, yet this is the one government seems most concerned with.

Secondly, how much money are we talking about?
Food stamp fraud costs taxpayers about $750 million a year, or 1 percent of the $75 billion program...
Now fraud is fraud, regardless of the amount of money in play. However, in terms of other kinds of fraud routinely perpetrated against the government, $750 million is miniscule. Compare it to, for example, the suspected amount of Medicare fraud in the US in 2010. The latter is estimated to be to the tune of $528 billion. Food Stamp fraud represents approximately 0.14 percent of this amount (and remember that most of said fraud is committed by businesses, not individuals)!

Third and most importantly, does the government go after those suspected of committing fraud in an evenhanded manner? Hell no! Various reports over the past few years found that huge corporations like Bechtel, Halliburton and Blackwater (to name a scant few) defrauded the government out of hundreds of billions of dollars in terms of contracts for various projects in Iraq. What was their punishment? More contracts!

This is what troubles me about reports of this nature. Folks who average about $132 per month in Food Stamp benefits -- that comes out to a whopping $1,584 per year -- receive intense government scrutiny because a few of them may be defrauding the system, while corporate repeat offenders receive almost no scrutiny, even when it is well documented that they are defrauding taxpayers of billions of dollars per year!

Line by Line - Verse 69, Line 8

There is no calamity greater than lightly engaging in war.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

There is no greater catastrophe than underestimating the enemy.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

There is no greater disaster than to underestimate the enemy
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Attacking an enemy you've underestimated is a costly mistake.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
In war and everyday life, we land ourselves in trouble when we start believing our own press clippings! Overconfidence is one of the banes of the human psyche. And, for me, that's what underestimating others is all about.

When we come to think that we are the smartest, strongest, prettiest, most powerful of the lot, our planning becomes slipshod. We don't do our due diligence. We end up undermining our own hopes for success.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Some Choice!

Trey Smith

Less than six months before the November presidential elections in an exceptionally distressed United States the narrow, unpleasant parameters of political possibility are emerging. Two alternatives confront the American people, both to the right of center.

1. If President Barack Obama is reelected, with the Democratic Party retaining control of at least one chamber of Congress, there probably will be four more years of economic stagnation, high unemployment, increasing poverty and inequality, more wars, erosions of civil liberties and global warming.

2. If Mitt Romney is elected, with the right/far right Republican Party dominating either House or Senate, every particular of the travail afflicting the country today will be multiplied, with emphasis on fulfilling the desires of the 1% at the expense of the 99%.

What else could be expected during the present conservative era?
~ from The Electoral Tunnel by Jack A. Smith ~
I think that pretty well sums it up. It's a choice between bad and badder or worse and worse still. If there was ever an election that catered to the idea of voting for the lesser evil, this one certainly fits the bill.

And this is why I will not vote for either of these candidates. I might cast a vote for the Green Party candidate, but I probably won't even do that. What's the point?

Whoever the rest of you decide to vote for in the presidential race, it's going to be a wasted vote...well...unless you're a member of the 1 percent. In that case, you will get your money's worth and more. The rest of us will get the shaft.


Chapter 14 - Doctrine of the Mean

The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is; he does not desire to go beyond this.

In a position of wealth and honor, he does what is proper to a position of wealth and honor. In a poor and low position, he does what is proper to a poor and low position. Situated among barbarous tribes, he does what is proper to a situation among barbarous tribes. In a position of sorrow and difficulty, he does what is proper to a position of sorrow and difficulty. The superior man can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself.

In a high situation, he does not treat with contempt his inferiors. In a low situation, he does not court the favor of his superiors. He rectifies himself, and seeks for nothing from others, so that he has no dissatisfactions. He does not murmur against Heaven, nor grumble against men.

Thus it is that the superior man is quiet and calm, waiting for the appointments of Heaven, while the mean man walks in dangerous paths, looking for lucky occurrences.

The Master said, "In archery we have something like the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the center of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself."
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

Daily Tao - Weiqi


Play, or learn to play, Weiqi (Go).

Daily Tao is a reprint from Ta-Wan's blog, Daily Cup of Tao, which offers one post per day for an entire year. You also can read these posts in an ebook.

No Obstructions

Scott Bradley

"It is the 'being', the presence, of things that obstructs us, while the emptiness of the Dao is open, allowing free passage. Before you have heard the Dao, everything you see is a thing. Afterward, everything is the Dao." This is part of Lu Huiqing's (1032-1111) response to the story of King Hui's cook's explanation of how he learned to effortlessly butcher an ox. (Zhuangzi, 3) When the cook has finished his explanation, King Hui exclaims, "From hearing the cook's words I have learned how to nourish life!" (Ziporyn)

Before he had realized the perspective of Dao, he only saw an ox. "But now I encounter it with the spirit rather than scrutinizing it with the eyes," he explains. "My understanding consciousness, beholden to its specific purposes, comes to a halt, and thus the promptings of the spirit begin to flow." The understanding consciousness is both purposive and thing-full. If he comes to a difficult part of the work and applies his mind with determination to overcoming it, he will make a mess of it. This is in part because, in thinking about it, he makes it a "thing"; and things are obstructions. If, on the other hand, he quiets himself and lets the open path through the problem reveal itself, he awakes as if from a trance to find the work already done.

I have just begun reading Byron Katie's Loving What Is, and am amazed at how her perspective resonates so closely with the Daoist vision. As I have only begun to read her, I can only share first impressions. Among these is her understanding that thoughts are always necessarily merely interpretations of reality. If reality is found to be stressful, this is because our interpretation of it makes it so. We are stressed because we believe our thoughts. She simply suggests we cease to do so. This is essentially what King Hui's cook tells us.

There are no obstructions anywhere in the world save those created by the mind. We need not believe that "all is well" to understand how this is true. If there is an obstruction, there is someone being obstructed. But there was a time when this 'someone' did not exist, and it will soon be the case that it exists no more. Where then is the obstruction? The perspective of Dao takes one beyond being 'someone' who can be obstructed; every obstruction is merely a negative interpretation of encountered reality.

Katie seems to suggest that we exchange our negative thoughts for positive ones. Is there a justification for doing so given that thoughts are all equally interpretations of reality and not reality itself? Yes; for two reasons. Firstly, she suggests that happiness and joy are values worth pursuing, and freeing ourselves from stress creating thoughts is a way toward realizing those values. How could we disagree? We might, if such an affirmation rested on some manufactured theory of reality, but these values are self-evident and self arising — they are an expression of our humanity. They are "the promptings of the spirit".

Secondly, she does understand that "all is well." She has had (is having) an experience of this, and this is the foundation and beginning of her teaching. Because all is well, we can turn all negative thoughts into positive ones. We can say, "Yes", to every reality we encounter.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tao Bible - Matthew 5:25

Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
~ King James version ~

After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain.
What can one do about it?
Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain
But does not exact his due.
A man of Virtue performs his part,
But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfill their obligations.
~ from Verse 79 of the Tao Te Ching ~
We tend to expect others to make the first move whenever we find ourselves in disagreement. We expect them to apologize or to refrain from being resentful. When we place the onus on others, we excuse ourselves.

Want to lessen conflict in your life? Then, keep your part of the bargain...first.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Chapter 13B - Doctrine of the Mean

"In the way of the superior man there are four things, to not one of which have I as yet attained. To serve my father, as I would require my son to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my prince, as I would require my minister to serve me: to this I have not attained; to serve my elder brother, as I would require my younger brother to serve me: to this I have not attained; to set the example in behaving to a friend, as I would require him to behave to me: to this I have not attained. Earnest in practicing the ordinary virtues, and careful in speaking about them, if, in his practice, he has anything defective, the superior man dares not but exert himself; and if, in his words, he has any excess, he dares not allow himself such license. Thus his words have respect to his actions, and his actions have respect to his words; is it not just an entire sincerity which marks the superior man?"
~ James Legge translation via ~
Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Doctrine of the Mean.

It is Getting Hot in Here

Trey Smith

Climate-heating carbon emissions set a record high in 2011, in a 3.2 percent increase over the previous year, the International Energy Agency reported this week. The main reason for this dangerous increase is that governments are failing to implement policies to prevent catastrophic increases of global temperatures.

A new report released on the last days of international climate talks in Bonn, Germany this week reveals that the planet is heading to a temperature rise of at least 3.5 degrees Celsius, and likely more, according to the Climate Action Tracker (CAT), despite an international agreement to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

Not only are pledges inadequate, but countries are unable to fulfill even those pledges, a new CAT analysis shows.
~ from Global Temperatures Rising on a Devastating Trajectory by Stephen Leahy ~
The onus of this report is not that unlike a husband who severely beats his wife. Each time it happens -- it happens frequently -- the police get called. They haul his sorry ass before the judge and the reprobate husband promises to do better. The judge believes him and sends him home. Within a few days, the jerk beats his wife again.

If the court doesn't step in to throw him in jail, chances are he will one day beat his wife to death. The authorities will say that they didn't see this coming because he had pledged to change his act and they took him at his word. How on earth could they "know" that he would go back on his word and continue beating her?

In this same vein, the industrialized nations of this world -- particularly the US -- keep promising to clean up their act and yet they go back on their word almost every time. While all the key signs point to a climate in trouble, they keep to business as usual.

If we continue on this same path, we will destroy the very habitat with which we need to sustain our lives.

And what will be our collective excuse? Aah yes, our leaders will cry that they never saw it coming!

Afternoon Matinee: The Gulf 2 Years Later - Scientists Alarmed

The Questions Unasked

Trey Smith

In this space, you often will find me criticizing the mainstream media. My issue with the media these days is that not only do they tend to act like subservient lapdogs to the government and Corporate America, but they no longer seem interested in following leads like the journalists of old -- even when said leads jump up to slap them in the face.

Here's an example from the Aberdeen newspaper (sorry, no link to provide). The headline reads: Gold Buyer Plagued By Returned Checks. We learn that the company, in question, bounced its check for a full-page ad in the newspaper reporting the story. It is also noted that over 4,000 of this company's checks across the country have bounced.

Hmm. This would seem to indicate a widespread problem.

The newspaper reporter contacted the company's vice president of Media Relations. This fellow says the problem is that the company's bank abruptly closed their corporate account in the middle of a work week and has refused to honor all the checks the company wrote.

I don't know about you, but this reason sounds very fishy. Banks tend to curry to the business community and I find it difficult to believe that a bank would abruptly close such an account with no warning. Really, it sounds to me like a lame excuse for shoddy (or slimy) business practices.

Here's what gets me. There are no indications whatsoever in the article that the reporter contacted the bank itself! If somebody tells you something that doesn't seem to add up, what is it that most of us routinely do? We try to verify the information provided! It's commonsense.

One would think that a hard-nosed reporter would try to ascertain a) If the gold buying company ever had an account with this bank? b) If so, was the account abruptly closed and when was this done? and c) Why was it abruptly closed? These three pieces of information are crucial to allow the reader to assess the veracity of the company spokesperson.

Without this pertinent information, a reader will have to assess the statement's veracity based solely on feeling. Do I feel his explanation adds up?

But there is a big problem with adjudging others based solely on our feelings. Our feelings often steer us in the wrong direction!

In this present case, while it certainly feels to me like the company spokesperson merely is blowing smoke, he may be telling it like it is. Maybe there was a big misunderstanding and the company is not at fault at all. On the other hand, his explanation could be a huge pile of malarkey.

It is the job of journalists to ask questions. It is by asking tough questions and reporting the answers that readers are provided with enough information to make well-informed decisions. But how is a reader to do that when the most important questions are never asked?

Line by Line - Verse 69, Line 7

advancing against the enemy where there is no enemy.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Being armed without weapons.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Holding weapons without weapons
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

When you defend yourself without any show of force,
you give your opponent nothing to fight.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Again, I will turn to John Lash because I think he makes a very astute point!
If you know absolutely nothing about self-defense and you are attacked by someone, your only recourse is to use a weapon. The less you know, the more violent you have to be. Being prepared and able to use your body and flexibility makes weapons and violence unnecessary.
To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.