Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 156, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Six
The people are to a ruler as a foundation of a citadel, as the roots of a tree. If the roots are deep, the tree is stable; if the foundation is thick, the building on top is secure.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Abraham Lincoln said much the same thing in a speech from 1858: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." (Jesus said something of this nature before Lincoln!)

When we're divided -- off chasing different desires and cravings -- we don't have the time nor energy to set a strong foundation. We're like a tree with shallow roots; the slightest amount of rain or wind is certain to shake us violently from side to side or to cause us to topple over. More importantly, without solid roots as a foundation, it's impossible to stay centered.

And, in my book, staying centered in life is the key.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 156, Part I

from Verse One-Hundred Fifty-Six
Laws are originated to assist justice; to take laws so seriously that justice is abandoned is to value the hat and shoes while forgetting the head and feet.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
In modern parlance, the above passage could be stated as: Following the letter of the law, but not the spirit. It typically occurs when people -- particularly bureaucrats -- refuse to accommodate unique circumstances that don't mesh well with a specific regulation, protocol, rule, law or socially recognized way of doing things.

Let me offer an example of what I'm referring to, one taken from the life of the Smith family. Della and I purchased our home through the USDA Rural Development Home Loan Program (our mortgage is partially subsidized). In reporting our income to USDA on an annual basis, we run into the same problem each year.

My wife works as an in-home care provider through a program that is financed through state and federal moneys. While she works for specific families (deemed the employers), her employment is managed and paid by a state agency. Because she is not expressly a state employee, USDA treats her as if she is a business owner and each year requests her business plan for the upcoming year.

Of course, we can't produce such a plan because Della does not own a business! So, each year we must go through a convoluted rigmarole trying to convince USDA representatives that all we can produce are her past pay slips and, possibly, her own calculations of what she might earn for the coming year. Her calculations would be pure guesses because the clients she takes care of are old, sick and may die at any moment (her sole client last year died unexpectedly). If her chief client died tomorrow, Della would basically be out of work until what time she was hired by a different family.

Because USDA officials tend to follow very strict procedures, they seem unwilling to make any allowance for these unique circumstances. In essence, they seem to have forgotten the spirit that underlies the purpose of this program. Each year we have to arm wrestle with them before they finally relent in some form. Yet, we know we will have to go through the same tired routine the following year!

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

New Voices Along the Path XII

Over the past two months I've added quite a few new links to the Taoist Wanderers section in the right sidebar. So, I'll introduce you to approximately one-half of them today.

Daily Cup of Tao
Written by the bloke who brings us Tao Wow, "This blog will have one short post per day. No particular order or quality. Though, I must say, some of the ones later in the year are very good." He's being modest. Almost EVERY daily entry is a keeper!!

Digital Taoist
The tag line reads: "Actively Knowing Nothing," but it's patently obvious that this blogger knows a thing or two.

Stationary Pilgrim
(Written by a Taoist.) With any undertaking there has to be a motive/reason for starting and for the direction we take. As often happens in a busy life, competing demands may cause us to set aside the good habits that we know should be a daily part of our lives. Good habits can of course be replaced not just by neutral habits, but by one that are negative and work against our physical well being, our spirituality and connectedness with other people. Last summer I pondered the idea of making a pilgrimage/long walk to “spiritual sites” in the region where I live. However, life demands (financial and family) made me realize this was not feasible. After seeing the movie Julie and Julia I realized that a Blog could act as the thread with which to bring together my motivational, creative and spiritual needs.

Tao for Life
An Online Journal Of Learning The Way Of Tao. Like this blog, it has undertaken to explore the verses of the Tao Te Ching as it applies to modern life.

Taoismo in Espanol
If Spanish is your native language, then this blog may be for you!

The Tao of Autism
Taoism and autism seem to go hand-in-hand. Taoism almost seems designed with the autistic in mind. There is so much wisdom from Taoism that can be applied to an autistic's life. I bring that wisdom here, as well as wisdom from elsewhere, to share through my unique lens. Unfortunately, the blog hasn't been updated since December.

WSR Taoism
This blog combines the eye of a photographer with the heart of a Taoist.

The Mirror

As we look around our world, we tend to forget that we don't see things as they are, but rather as we are. We can use the world as a mirror to gain greater understanding of ourself.
~ Today's Daily Quote from The TaoWoods Center ~
I think today's daily quote is so spot on! I really don't have anything to add to it; I simply wanted to share it.

Wen Tzu - Verse 155, Part VIII

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Five
The Way is such that it is possible to go ahead by retreating, possible to be honored by maintaining flexibility, possible to be elevated by lowering oneself, possible to be fulfilled by diminishing oneself, possible to be complete by faulting oneself, possible to be new and fresh by being obscure and ignominious, possible to be good by seeing one's lack. The Way contrives nothing, but there is nothing it does not do.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
It's impossible for any of us to wrap our brains around Tao. When we try to chart a course to it as our destination, the very process of drawing the map insures that we will not reach it. The harder we try to grasp it, the more it slips out of our grip.

While it may sound like the ultimate contradiction, the best way to live the Tao is not to try to live it all.

As the passages in this one long verse have pointed to again and again, it is our striving that serves as our greatest stumbling block. When we strive, we leave behind the center and stretch for the extremes. When we stretch toward the extreme, we lose our sense of balance and are far more likely to fall. And when we fall, we too often lose sight of the vision of harmony within ourselves.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 155, Part VII

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Five
Those who are born into nobility become arrogant, those who are born into riches become extravagant. Therefore wealth and status are not conducive to understanding the Way. Few indeed are those who watch themselves and are able to avoid doing anything wrong.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
From time to time, a few readers have charged that I too easily inject my leftist political views into my commentary of the Wen Tzu. Well, when we read passages like the one above, it appears that Lao Tzu and I are on the same page!! Me thinks there is no other way to read it.

For my part, the reason WHY a person born into privilege is hamstrung in finding the Way is because their frame of reference is too narrow. When all your needs and desires are catered to in your youth, you naturally come to expect such treatment throughout the entirety of your life! You may be a big proponent of laws and protocols, but you believe that such do not apply to you and, in too many cases, it seems to work that way.

In essence, your life is marked by excess. When everything you crave is heaped on you excessively, it becomes next too impossible to understand the lives of others whose lives are marked by want. You really don't have the foggiest idea of what it's like to live on the margins of society. And you don't have a clue of when enough is enough.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 155, Part VI

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Five
Superior people look into realities and do not believe words of slander. When rulers have erred, ministers who do not admonish them are not loyal, while rulers who do not listen when admonished are not enlightened. Leaders who do not worry when the people are depressed are not intelligent.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
For me, the above passage points at two scourges of humanity which often go hand in hand: superficiality and cowardice.

When we choose solely to look at the surface of a given situation, we rarely do it justice. Sometimes, out of laziness, we skim the very top to make decisions and pronouncements based on the barest of information. In most cases, the most salient information is below the surface and, when we refuse to lift the covers, we allow a lot of hate, greed, contrivance and oppression to occupy the driver's seat.

While laziness certainly explains part of our reticence in looking deeply at life, cowardice also plays a big role. It's far easier to be superficial because it's safer! Those who question things are apt to be marginalized, ostracized, jailed or threatened with all sorts of sanctions.

Which kind of person are you? One who tries to curry favors by taking a superficial approach or one who tries, regardless of the costs, to get to the heart of the matter?

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 155, Part V

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Five
Sages are comfortable in poverty, enjoying the Way. They do not harm life by craving and do not burden themselves by materialism. Therefore they do not deviate from justice by taking what they do not deserve.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
In this world, there are some people who make a great show of taking a vow of poverty. They eschew the resources that are available to them.

In my mind, this isn't the sort of person Lao Tzu is referring to. A person who takes a vow of poverty is contriving -- they are contriving to be poor! In many ways, it's not that different from someone who strives for wealth. Rather than taking life as it comes, both individuals are attempting to manipulate things to meet their own desires.

Still, my guess is that, by modern standards, most sages would not be considered financially well-off. Because they don't strive, they aren't the sort of people who put much value in our materialistic lifestyle. When they feel they have enough to survive, they don't try to accumulate more.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

59 - The Wellspring in You

The source of all power is within yourself. Although external circumstances may occasionally hamper you, true movement comes solely from within yourself. The source is latent in everyone, but anyone can learn to tap it. When this happens, power rises like a shimmering well through the center of your body.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 59 ~
As should be easily apparent, one of my major critiques with the Christian religion is this idea that each of us is powerless and needs the intercession of a creator to be "saved." I cringe every time I hear someone say that each of us is born sinful and we're all a bunch of hopeless wretches. The way I look at it, if a person tells themselves that often enough, it will soon become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such a person will become wretched because they believe it is so!

Our bodies seem to function just fine without the need for such intercession. I don't think the hand of God instructs my body to breathe or my heart to beat. My brain controls my involuntary bodily functions. So, why should we need intercession for other aspects of our lives?

Wen Tzu - Verse 155, Part IV

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Five
Those whose virtue exceeds their rank are honored; those whose salary exceeds their virtue are accursed. The nobility of virtue involves no aggrandizement; a just salary is not too much. Those who are ennobled without virtue are stealing rank, those who take unjustly are stealing wealth.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
For me, this passage is all about striving. When we strive for fame, celebrity, influence or titles, we always think more of ourselves than is warranted. So, whatever we receive is excessive.

A virtuous person, on the other hand, doesn't strive at all. They take what is provided without complaint and they view the provision as sufficient. Because it is sufficient, there is no cause to strive for more.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Just Walk a Path

"What I know, I have to train for in life. Can't be just say it, and read it in some book. No way how to tell what I know. Just a path I walk, and when you on that path, you know. What can be said, one person to the other, just maybe how to walk that path. What you find goin' down the trail only for you alone..."
~ from What I've Always Known: Living in Full Awareness of the Earth by Tom Harmer ~
I wanted to share this brief passage of the words of Salish teacher Clayton Tommy to illustrate that belief systems other than philosophical Taoism feature some of the same themes. If the phraseology above was slightly different, one might think it was written by Lao Tzu or Chuang Tzu!

The reason I have embraced Taoism as my basic philosophic underpinning is that it brings together several ideas into a unified -- not codified -- whole. But I am not naive enough to think that only the great Taoist sages were able to see the world in such terms. I realize that these same ideas and themes permeate other worldviews too. The cited book above has shown that many Indian beliefs and metaphors are congruent with the Taoist perspective.

In the end, the labels utilized are of meager importance. I will continue to search out those belief systems that stress the interconnection of all things and the importance of each person walking their own path.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 155, Part III

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Five
A man cannot outrun a swift horse, but if the horse were put into a cart it could not outrun a man. Therefore those who use the Way skillfully employ the resources of other people to accomplish their tasks, using what they can do for what they cannot.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
Sort of a weird illustration, wouldn't you say? A horse IN a cart?

The illustration aside, I like this passage because it suggests that, as far as group dynamics, we should make use of the individual talents of all participants. Each of us has unique talents. Groups can get far more accomplished if each member is allowed to utilize their specific talents for the betterment of the whole.

Back when I was an organizational person, I must admit that I tended to take on too many responsibilities. If I became sick or went away on a short vacation, the work of the group tended to stop dead in its tracks because the key cog was missing. It would have been better for all concerned if I had been better at a) not volunteering to do so much and b) delegating tasks to others based on their interest and/or abilities.

When organizations behave in such a manner, no one person becomes too indispensable. Key players can come and go, but the group continues to flourish.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Piercing the Silence

For those of you who live in a mid to large city, there are routine noises and sounds that form the backdrop of your everyday life. If you live in such a setting for any length of time, you don't even consciously notice them. Traffic. Machinery. Jets. Sirens.

For those of us who live in rural areas, such sounds are not commonplace at all. Just now, I heard a siren from a police car or ambulance. I hear that sound no more than once or twice per month and, each time I hear it, I'm very conscious of it. I always think to myself, "Hmm. What's up with that?"

Another sound I rarely hear is traffic noises. Sure, my neighbors drive up and down our street as they come and go, but I'm not referencing individual vehicles. I'm talking about the sound of multiple vehicles traveling to and fro. Sometimes, in the summer months, I may hear a bit of traffic on Highway 101 below our hill, but once it gets to 7 or 8 p.m. that sound stops.

I'm often amazed -- and delighted -- that I can sit on my back deck in the evening and hear nary a wayward sound. At times, the silence almost is deafening.

I grew up in a large metro area, Kansas City, MO. While I do recognize some benefits to living in a moderate to large city, I wouldn't trade South Bend for any of them. There is a lot to be said for small town living and a dearth of sounds piercing the silence is one of them!

124 - One Way is No Way

Metaphysical totalitarianism of any kind stifles the freedom we have as human beings. It is not acceptable to have a religion where the alternative to faith is punishment -- that's how you train dogs, not develop people. Spirituality is only great when it allows the utmost freedom to follow it.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 124 ~
Whenever I'm participating in a blog OR I meet someone face-to-face who starts to tell me what God, Tao or the cosmos definitely is all about, I tend to quit listening. Nobody knows what the great IT encompasses or is all about; if a person thinks he/she knows, then the person either is pompous to the max or completely delusional. Either way, I know from experience that it will be next too impossible to engage the person in a cogent form of conversation!

For people such as this, there can be no debate or questions. They believe there is one way and only one way -- THEIR way -- to understand these sorts of things. If you don't bow down and shout, "Amen" to whatever it is they are presenting, then you are an apostate or worse.

In my book, one way is no way. I so agree with the above passage in that there must be freedom afforded to walk different paths. Where freedom is not allowed, all you have is stagnation, repression and guilt.

Sorry, but that's not my idea of a vibrant way of engaging this mystery we call life.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 155, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Five
Words and actions are opposed to each other, feelings and appearances contradict each other.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
One of the chief problems with attempting to utilize external standards and codes is that it tends to cause us to become estranged from ourselves. We encounter a situation and, instead of moving effortlessly with it, we have to stop to try to ascertain what is proper or moral based on societal expectations. As the previous passage from this verse indicates, we end up needing to calculate something like a cost-benefit analysis.

So, we think one thing in our hearts, but end up doing something totally different. We feel one thing in the core of our being, but we wear a mask on the outside. While we start out being authentic, we finish the day be inauthentic.

What a way to live (not)!

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

A Rose By Any Other Name

Before we leave behind the subject of poop -- I sure hope no one accidentally steps in it -- I thought it would interesting to explore some of the wide variety of euphemisms we human's employ to avoid a direct description of this sometimes daily event. If you happen to have a few questions about turds and the process of producing them that you've been afraid to ask, I found an interesting site called!

When I was growing up, the most common euphemism I used was to refer to the act of defecation as doing number two. I've often wondered why urination claims the top spot and defecation plays second fiddle. I suppose it's because the former occurs more frequently, though the latter can be much more of a relief!

In doing a very quick Google search, I found three different sites (A, B & C) that list a long litany of terms and phrases used to signify this basic bodily function. I will list a few of them for your enjoyment and I encourage you to add to the list in the comments section.

I'm fairly certain Chuang Tzu would get a hoot out of this post!! He'd read it, laugh, fart and then go about his day. :>)
  • Bake a brownie
  • Catching up on some reading
  • Chop a log
  • Conducting a movement
  • Do the Royal Squat
  • Drop the kids off at the lake
  • Dropping a stool
  • Filling the peanut butter jar
  • Launching a corn canoe
  • Lay a brick
  • Make a deposit at the porcelain bank
  • Make room for lunch
  • Making some fertilizer
  • Play at the Toilet Bowl
  • Sink the Bismark
  • Sit on the throne
  • Squeeze a loaf
  • Stocking the pond with brown trout
  • Taking a shit

Things We Mustn't Talk About

Carrying on from my previous post, Life is Crap!, it often boggles my mind why the subject of excrement is considered so out-of-bounds. It's as natural as breathing, eating or sleeping. Everybody does it, but no one likes to talk or write about it. It's one of those taboo topics.

What parent wouldn't be aghast if their young son or daughter greeted grandma with the following announcement:
Grandma, guess what? I just had a bowel movement. It was this loooooooooong. It was kind of blue, but mommy says that's because I ate blueberries last night. You want to come see it? I saved it for you to see.
The poor child would be taken aside and told that we don't talk about such things in polite company! This message is drummed into our heads from an early age until we too consider it bad form to discuss one of our most basic bodily functions.

Yet, we don't seem to have the same reticence in reference to trees. Trees excrete things all the time -- leaves, needles, cones, seeds, berries and flowers. What parent would scold their child for telling grandma that they had spent the day raking leaves (tree crap) and then jumping in the pile (I shudder at the thought)?

I think a lot of this aversion is borne by religion, particularly that of the Abrahamic persuasion. In these belief systems, anything of the flesh is eeee-vil. Consequently, anything cast off from this evil vessel must be really, really baaad. Good people should never discuss bad things.

Of course, we do discuss these sorts of things, but we do it in veiled terms. Instead of telling our buddies that we need to go defecate, we say we need to take a dump. It's often quite hilarious to read all the euphemisms for feces, urine and -- the most vile and icky bodily function of them all -- menstruation! Honey, I think the painters are here!

I'd write more on the fascinating topic, but I need to take a leak. :>D

Life Is Crap!

How's that for an attention-getting title?

I often think of rather odd things in the wee hours of the morning! As I rubbed the sleepiness out of my eyes today and prepared to do my initial business, I got to thinking about the amount of waste (urine and feces) each person creates. Just for the sake of conversation, let's say we each cast off one pound. With an estimated world population of 6.9 billion, that's a lot of waste!

Of course, the other types of creatures in this world outnumber human beings and each one of them creates waste too. So, I'm sure we're talking about billions upon billions of tons per year. And that's just in the form of excrement. Add to this all the skin, hair, fur and other types of cells cast off and it quickly becomes apparent that our lives are built on crap (in the colloquial sense).

It's all part and parcel of the life process. Wherever we look, we see this continual cycle of birth to death to rebirth. So, without crap, there would be no life.

Think about that for a while...but not too long. ;>)

195 - Gratitude for the Mundane

Being spiritual means not taking things for granted. Quite the opposite, you remember how everything that comes to you fits into an overall scheme. You acknowledge the precious quality of everyday things. And you maintain a gratitude for both the good and the bad in your life.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 195 ~
Let's face it. People love to be wowed. This is one of the great pulls of religion; that opportunity to have grand epiphanies and be part of celestial extravaganzas. We crave to see the burning bush or to hear God's voice booming from the clouds.

What gets lost in the shuffle, however, is the mysterious wonder of the mundane. Every moment we are conscious, each aspect of our lives is a spectacle to behold. The air that we breath. The food that nourishes us. The robin's song we listen to. The sun that shines on us. The emptiness we feel in solitude.

We don't need to go to church or a special place to feel connected to the infinite. We don't need to fall down on our knees in prayer or take time out of our day to meditate. Heck, we don't have to do anything but be aware and, when we allow ourselves to be aware, all things are connected.

Wild Thang

Yesterday (Wednesday) an animal trainer was killed by an orca at SeaWorld in Florida. While my heart certainly goes out to the woman's family and friends, a report such as this doesn't surprise me in the least. Whenever we take animals out of their natural surroundings and place them in a contrived setting for human study and/or enjoyment, we run the risk of said animals and creatures behaving as they naturally behave.

Humankind has been domesticating dogs for thousands of years, yet rarely a week goes by in which one or more canines attack people. Even though most domesticated animals would have a hard time surviving in their previously natural environment, a smidgen of their internal wild nature remains locked in their DNA. In reality, they simply are doing what comes naturally.

Look, two of my most favorite activities as a child were going to the zoo and the circus. I loved watching the lion tamers skirt on the edge of sanity and safety. At the zoo, my favorite haunt was the ape house; I could spend hours mesmerized by the movements and behaviors of these magnificent creatures. I even worked for several months in my twenties at a place called Animal Wonderland in Hot Springs, Arkansas (my fondest memory was the day I got to shovel four inch deep duck poop out of two holding areas) .

While I do understand the fascination with other beings, both they and we would be better off if we simply left them alone. If we must contain them, the very least we could do is to place them in settings that mirror their natural environments. Placing an orca (killer whale) in a small -- by their standards -- concrete tank doesn't fit the bill any more than it does placing a tiger or lion in a cage.

It's tantamount to treating the rest of the creatures on this orb like condemned prisoners for being nothing more than themselves.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 155, Part I

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Five
Those who practice humaneness deliberately always calculate it in terms of sorrow and happiness, those who practice justice deliberately always understand it in terms of taking and giving.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
I realize that passages such as this sound queer to the western ear. We grow up hearing incessantly about morals and rules. Every act we undertake is supposed to be measured against these external standards.

So, is Lao Tzu suggesting that humaneness, civility and justice aren't worthy attributes?

Not at all. Each indeed is something to strive for without striving at all! We should behave in these ways naturally as each situation calls for it, rather than calculating how much we need to give or bear.

Our calculating nature is the problem. We're always trying to figure out how to receive the most for the least. When we agree to swap favors with someone else, most of us try to figure out what we can offer so that we get back the same plus a little more. For the true person of Tao, this quid pro quo plus one calculation doesn't figure in at all. You simply do what needs to be done without any consideration for what you might receive in return.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

The Sharks Smell Blood in the Water

Though they've been around for years, I've noticed a definite uptick in the number of TV ads for debt consolidation/relief services. A lot of the ads start off something like this: "Are you swimming in a sea of debt? Do you owe $10,000 or more? XYZ Debt Consolidation Services can help you become debt free in no time at all. Our financial counselors will work with you to roll all your debts and loans into one! This one loan will lower your monthly payout, reduce the interest rate and increase your credit rating. Operators are standing by. Call now for more information."

Like most families these days, Della & I have debt. Most of it is due to unpaid medical bills and one credit card (major auto repair that we couldn't afford otherwise). While ads of this nature sound tempting, I've never considered calling one of these companies because the whole set-up smells really fishy to me. Today I did some internet research and my suspicions have been confirmed!

Far too many of these companies are just out to make a quick and easy buck off of desperate people. With the economy tanking all over the place, folks losing their jobs and many in danger of losing their homes, the sharks smell blood in the water. Like sharks are apt to do, they're enjoying a feeding frenzy at the public's expense.

This offers a contemporary illustration of what Lao Tzu means by his repeated warnings about contrivance. These sharks and hucksters are developing means to contrive your money away from you and into their own pockets! They dress up their potential theft by promising all sorts of fantastic things, but make no mistake about it; they truly aren't interested in helping you with your financial problems. They want your money, plain and simple. That's their sole motivation.

I Yam What I Yam

The other day I was perusing various blogs and came upon one that deals with metaphysical topics. I left a comment on one of the posts and, in a short time, the author sent me an email in which she indicated that she has been desiring to hook up with a Taoist to write a guest column on the subject. So, she believed it was karma that her desire coincided with my visit!

Within a day or two, I wrote the guest column, but it turns out it won't appear on her blog. The reason? She is squeamish because I ran for Governor in Oregon as a Socialist in 1998.

As Popeye the Sailor is known to say, "I yam what I yam." I can't change my past -- none of us can. It is what it is and, whether one wishes to or not, we can't escape it. In my case, I don't want to escape it because my past has brought me to right now and I kind of like right now. :>)

This whole episode has given me a chuckle. It seems this woman's karma is on the fritz. It saw clearly enough to bring us together at the right time, but it obviously didn't do a proper background check! If it had done the proper background check, then it wouldn't have brought us together in the first place.

Funny how karma works that way sometimes.

Wen Tzu - Verse 154, Part IV

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Four
When you win by killing and wounding people, do not glorify it. Thus it is said that brambles grow on a ground where people have died; weep for them with sadness, lay them to rest with the rites of mourning. This is why superior people strive for the virtue of the Way and do not set great store by the use of the military.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
It would be more than easy to launch into an exposition about nations and war. However, one of the things I like about the words of Lao Tzu is that his message is conveyed on two tracks simultaneously: the collective and the individual. So, in this post I will focus on the latter.

We can and do symbolically slay and wound people with our words. Heck, I've been known to do this very thing in the comments section of this blog!! When we speak or write in a vicious and/or violent manner, it does little to further civil dialog. All it does is put other people on the defensive or causes them to decide to leave. When either of these things occur, it makes it nearly impossible to find common ground or, at the very least, respectfully to agree to disagree.

Of course, the Tao person diligently works to avoid arguments and debates. He/She realizes the futility of turning conversations into an adversarial process. Rather than seek verbally to go on the offensive, the wise make their case in non-argumentative and non-confrontational ways.

I have a long, long way to go in this arena!

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spotlight on Pure Mountain Tao

One of the real challenges to authoring a blog that focuses on philosophic themes -- Taoist or otherwise -- is to keep the posts fresh. There are only a certain number of fundamental topics out there and so, if the blog exhibits any longevity, the main concepts and ideas will be discussed again and again and again.

Roshi Alan Hogan of Pure Mountain Tao is a master at utilizing different metaphors and illustrations to bring to life the subjects that human beings have discussed and debated for thousands of years. It's one of my favorite Taoist blogs and he inspires me daily.

One of the things I'd like to draw your attention to his is creative One Sentence TTC. As he explains in the introduction,
I wrote the one sentence Tao Te Ching to help beginners understand and memorize the TTC much easier. It is not meant as a complete translation, but I believe it gives the main idea of each of the 81 verses.
For me, I think he well captures the essence of the Tao Te Ching. It really does provide a good starting point, both for the novice and those of us who've read over the TTC several times. If nothing else, it provides tremendous food for thought!

To give you an idea of the kind of posts you will find on Pure Mountain Tao on any given day, I offer the following examples.
I do quite a bit of travel up and down Interstate 95 and around this time of the year you begin to see many people pulling trailers with motorcycles on them heading south. This is the time of the year when Bike Week takes place in Daytona Beach, Florida. A gathering of bikers there to celebrate bikes, party, and take in the warm sun. I was wondering how many of these faux bikers come to Daytona. If you were really a biker, would you not just ride your bike down to Florida? Instead people load up a trailer and often pull it behind a large, comfortable RV. Once here, I surmise that they roll the bikes off of the trailers and then portray themselves as being real bikers. The world is full of such people wearing masks, pretending to be one thing when they are really another. Seek to be genuine. Do not just read and talk about the Tao, live it, even if it means being seen as living on a different plane. One who understands the Tao is embraces the simple so much so, that they are seen as being complicated. Profound understanding of greatness generates misunderstanding by the masses. Ride your bike of Tao, do not pull it on a trailer.

Bridge Over Flowing Water
Those who have wisdom know when to get out of the way, know when to act, know when to fade into the shadows, know when to come out into the sunlight. The Tao rains, snows, and shines. All is a result of being natural and not being contrived. Let the days go by gently like flowing water. Stand on the bridge watching the wonders of the Tao. The Way is a bridge which neither the coming of death or the passage of time can destroy.

Various Roads
We should strive for nothing nor strive to reach anyplace including the Tao. Striving for anything including the Tao can actually become a hindrance in becoming one with the way. Let the Tao within you flow out naturally and without undue force. Once we find the way, do not be alarmed if you lose the way. Remember that your way is the Tao and you can always find it again. Even though we may travel various roads and find ourselves in strange lands, the Tao never goes anywhere.

Economic Times
It is all too common an occurrence to hear bad news fronted by the phrase, “In today’s tough economic times”, or “Due to the economic conditions that exist…” This is true in some cases but I wonder how many times it is simply a convenient excuse to fire people from jobs, refuse to spend money that needs to be spent, or increase the profits of a company or a combination of the three. We may find ourselves making the same kind of ‘convenient‘ statements. “I meant to be mindful but….”…”I try to follow the Tao, however…” or some other excuse. Sometimes a condition becomes a barrier whether it truly is or not. It may be real or artificial. If the front door is locked, maybe the back door or a window is not. Go around and check. Do not just stand on the porch trying to justify not getting in the house.
I hope these four examples have whetted your appetite for more. If you're looking for daily inspiration, this blog is a great place to start.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Blog Spotlight

Periodically, as I add new links to the various sections of the right sidebar, I announce the additions in an ongoing series entitled, Voices Along the Path. The posts in that series offer you, the reader, a bit of background about the links added. While I will continue to add to that series, from time to time, I'm going to start a new one, Spotlight, which will focus on one specific blog per post.

As I've written here many, many times before, there is no definitive definition of philosophical Taoism. As we each must ply our own paths in life, we must also write our own definitions. What you see here on this blog are my definitions. No more. No less.

To help each of us along on our own individual journeys, it can be helpful to read of the journeys of others. While I'm thankful that you have chosen to treat this blog as one of your way stations, I urge you to drop by other way stations as well.

To this end, later today I will post the first of my installments in the Spotlight series. The first way station we will look at it is Roshi Hogan's Pure Mountain Tao.

You can checkout all the blogs that have been spotlighted here.

The Games People Play

A confidant and I were recently talking about a mutual friend who is a consummate games player. It seems that once or twice per month people gather at this fellow's house to play a variety of strategic board games. There is a particular game (I don't remember what it's called) that spawns sessions that can last all day up until the wee hours of the morning!

Now this fellow views his gamesmanship and his overall personality as two distinct things. In his mind's eye, once the game board and pieces have been put away, he dons a less competitive and strategic personality. His cohorts will tell you, however, that this is not the case at all. He navigates through life as if it was a strategic board game.

Of course, it's far easier to develop these kinds of assessments of others and not so easy to look in the mirror to apply the same analysis to ourselves!!!

Back in my earlier years, I too was a consummate games player. I particularly liked those types of strategy games in which feints and subterfuge often proved to be winning gambits. This style of play well mirrored my overall personality as I had a tendency to be passive-aggressive.

Winning was the only thing that mattered to me. In fact, that's putting it mildly. I didn't merely want to win, I wanted to smear the other players and then rub their noses in my abject superiority. Needless to say, owing to my passive-aggressive mindset, I would never acknowledge these facts, but it was painfully apparent from my behavior.

Fortunately, I have evolved past that point. I still enjoy a good game, but most of the ones I play now are against the computer and my ultimate goal is not necessarily to win but to keep improving my skills (most of the games I play are word games).

Wen Tzu - Verse 154, Part III

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Four
The Way of Nature is spoiled by those who contrive, lost by those who try to grasp. Look at those who want to have a great reputation and therefore seek and struggle for it: we see they cannot stop themselves, but even if they gain it by grasping, it does not stay.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
In reading the above passage, I immediately thought of Jerry Springer, Dr. Phil and the plethora of "reality TV" shows!

We live in a world today in which too many people want to be noticed by claiming their ten minutes of fame. People will go to such lengths to be counted as a transitory celebrity; often debasing themselves in front of cameras and microphones.

Yet, almost as soon as their "star" rises, it fizzles. In no time at all, they become has-beens. Their so-called fame turns out to be a fleeting illusion and they are forced to return to their humdrum existence.

In trying so hard to become a someone, they seal their own fate as a nobody.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Wen Tzu - Verse 154, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Four
So the Way is not to establish oneself by aggressiveness, not to conquer by forcefulness, not to gain by competitiveness.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
When we use aggression and force in order to compete with others, we create winners and losers. When there are winners and losers, we have created adversaries. Adversaries always are on the lookout to better the other.

It doesn't matter which side we come out on; both are problematic. Victors want to insure they remain on top, so they often act in a ruthless manner to keep their adversaries down. The vanquished often are on the lookout for ways to topple the victors.

In essence, competition creates war -- whether between nations, individuals or within ourselves. War keeps all from from finding their way to Tao.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 154, Part I

So those who attain the Way of life will inevitably become great even if they are small; those who have the signs of morbidity will inevitably fail even if they are now successful. When a nation is moribund, greatness is not enough to depend on; but if the Way is carried out therein, even a small nation is not to be slighted.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
We live in a society that emphasizes largeness, grandeur, boldness and aggressiveness. We're told that only the strong survive and the weak perish. So, we're encouraged and browbeat always to try to surge to the top.

But a person or country's intrinsic worth is not based on overt attempts to increase one's size or power. Both are nothing more than transitory illusions. There will always be others who will make themselves appear bigger or stronger.

Virtue and humility are more in line with Tao. Thus, the person who appears weak is actually strong, the person who appears small actually is large and the person who knows how to yield is actually powerful.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Speak To Me Softly

I'm sure each of you has had a similar experience. I was at the library -- it happens at bookstores and flea markets too -- casually looking at books on the stack. I wasn't looking for anything in particular; just sort of idly browsing. One book, in particular, caught my eye. In a way, it sort of jumped out at me as if to say, "You really need to read me."

So, I picked it up, checked it out and took it home. Each night before falling asleep, I read a chapter. When and if I get to the end, I'll write a book review. For now, I'll share a paragraph that really speaks to me.
It's no wonder we completely forget the magical experiences that define our lives through child's eyes. Coming from a culture that lives a materialist dream of never looking deep, that invalidates children's reports of encountering otherworldly beings as fantasies they need to grow out of, I almost instantly forgot what nobody but I had seen. So absorbed in the vast adult reality around me and thirsting for knowledge of how it worked -- how I could share in it once I grew up -- I was left with a longing for something I couldn't identify. Despite what schoolteachers said, growing up wasn't about mastering some increasing esoteric lore that adults possessed so I could embark on an adventure of unlimited potential. It was about narrowing the possibilities, by excluding so much personal experience that only the agreed-upon game plan for the "real world" mattered. I became a fully operational adult, ready for the business of war, work, and mastering technology. And I was afflicted with the same amnesia as other modern adults -- the vague sense that I used to know something even more important.
~ from What I've Always Known: Living in Full Awareness of the Earth by Tom Harmer ~

319 - Go Fish

Tao may be known as directly as water is knowable to a fish. My Tao will not be the same as your Tao. We are both individuals, with different backgrounds and thoughts. As soon as Tao enters into us, it takes on the colors of our inner personalities. When it passes out of us, it returns again to universal nature. This is an ongoing and constant process, like water flowing through a fish's gills.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 319 ~
I think this passage well illustrates one of the chief differences between most religions and philosophical Taoism. While the former tend to instruct the faithful in the importance of external perceptions and absolute truth, Taoists realize that perceptions and truth are different for each individual.

This is why there are no creeds, rituals nor scriptures for philosophical Taoists! All such things are based on externalities. What speaks to one person may not speak to the next.

Of course, this emphasis on individuality is downright frightening to many people. We're taught that there is safety in numbers and that the person who chooses to go it alone will have no safety net if he/she finds themselves in peril. While I would agree that there certainly is some truth to this fear, a group can just easily find themselves in peril without an adequate safety net too.

Our lives are an adventure. Our journeys are not for the weak of heart. There will be hard times ahead and instances when we're unsure of which fork in the road to take. If we are open to the Way, we can find the right path.

No one else -- no matter the sincerity of their intentions -- can do it for us.

As Things Are

I'm getting better at taking to heart the ideas and principles I write about! As I've mentioned before, I had all my teeth pulled on the second day of this month. As I had already had dentures made, I went home that day with my new "teeth" in my mouth.

Initially, I expected to be eating solid food again in a matter of days. I, unfortunately, based this expectation on other people's anecdotes (externalities). Several people -- including my own wife -- told me that I would quickly wonder why I hadn't gotten around to obtaining dentures sooner. While it would certainly take some getting used to, the expectation was that I would master the world of eating and talking with dentures in no time at all.

Needless to say, this has not proven true in my case. While the dentures themselves fit well -- I don't even need adhesives -- it turns out that the upper set adheres to the roof of my mouth too far back. Since I have suffered from swallowing difficulties my whole life, the shape of the upper denture makes me feel as if I'm gagging anytime I try to eat or drink with it in place. So, in order to do either of these things, I must remove the dentures and, with no teeth, I've been forced to maintain basically a liquid diet.

At first, this realization really got me down. How was I going to maintain adequate calories and nutrition if I'm unable to eat anything with more solidity than mashed potatoes? But I didn't stay down for long. I realized the situation is what it is and I simply need to address it as best I can!

Today I return to the denturist in Olympia for adjustments. While I'm hopeful that my difficulties can be remedied, I have no expectations. It's not that I doubt that a solution can be proffered, it's more that I will deal with the situation as it arises. By focusing on the now -- the present moment -- I'm not going to allow myself to get all caught up in the what ifs or why nots.

I may return home this evening with the problem solved or I may return home with a slight or no improvement. If it's the latter, then I will continue to focus on how to make the best of a not-so-good situation. If it's the former, I'm going to relish eating a piece of bread for the first time in 3 weeks!

If nothing else, the circumstance I find myself in has had one very positive benefit -- I've lost nearly 15 pounds in 3 weeks. Maybe I can write a best-selling diet book: The No Teeth Weight Loss Program! :>D

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Baby, The Rain Must Fall

Today I was watching a program on the History Channel about the dust bowl of the 1930s. If you're unfamiliar with this horrendous event, here's a snippet of information from Wikipedia:
The Dust Bowl was an ecological and human disaster caused by misuse of land and years of sustained drought. Millions of acres of farmland became useless, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes; many of these families (often known as "Okies", since so many came from Oklahoma) traveled to California and other states, where they found economic conditions little better than those they had left. Owning no land, many traveled from farm to farm picking fruit and other crops at starvation wages. Author John Steinbeck later wrote The Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Of Mice and Men about such people.
Near the end of the 2 hour-long program, attention was turned to modern-day Oklahoma (circa 2007) and some people's predictions that another dust bowl may be imminent due to factory farming techniques and years of drought.

To combat the meager amounts of rainfall, some conservation districts are employing a technology called cloud seeding. One of the most common methods of seeding clouds involves shooting silver iodide and dry ice into them from airplanes or via land-based rockets.

At the risk of sounding like a Taoist Luddite, this doesn't sound like a good idea to me at all! The means don't always justify the ends. Whenever humankind seeks to manipulate Mother Nature, she always seems to come back to bite us on the butt.

Mind you, I certainly don't blame her because our short-term desires never take all the necessary variables into account. We set out to accomplish one specific objective without realizing the long-term or interdependent effects of our actions.

The more viable solution would be to live in accord with nature, not try to alter it. It would make far more sense simply not to locate farms in areas prone to drought. It's like when people build their dream house on a floodplain and then wonder why their house is always being flooded.

Go figure!

Will the True Jesus Please Stand Up

In one of my posts from yesterday, One Savings Account, several commenters made some remarks about the true identity of Jesus, the Jewish carpenter. Most of them can be summed up by the comment left by Shinzen, in which he stated "we need to save Jesus from the Christians." I certainly understand the sentiment because it's one I held for many, many years.

However, I was taken to task more than once by a former reader (and fantastic fellow), Forest Wisdom. He pointed out again and again that few people know much of anything about the person of Jesus because the Bible -- the chief source -- has been so twisted and adulterated through the centuries that no one can know for sure precisely what Jesus actually said and what words and thoughts have been placed on his lips.

After giving the matter a great deal of thought, I realized Forest Wisdom was on to something!! I've come to agree with him that Jesus is nothing more than a blank canvas that we can attach our own feelings and beliefs to. The guy is sort of like a Barbie doll; we can dress him up any way we want and change his wardrobe at will.

If a person is a proponent of war, then Jesus becomes GI-Joe. If a person believes that homosexuality is immoral, then Jesus can be made to look like Pat Robertson! If a person believes that Jesus came to serve the downtrodden, then his accessories can be switched for the Mother Teresa look. And if you believe Jesus was a peace-loving hippie, you can tweak his appearance to look more like a Teddy Bear.

However you choose to outfit him, it's easy to marshal the needed citations to back up your position. If someone disagrees with you, all you have to do is castigate them for not reading the scriptures correctly. It's a marvelous game and millions upon millions of people play it, Christians and non-Christians alike.

The reality of the situation is that we know there are a few reports of a Jewish holy person named Jesus and he played an indirect role in the formation of a new religion. Beyond that, almost everything else about this individual is open to conjecture.

For my part, I believe that Jesus probably existed in the flesh and blood, but the true Jesus can't stand up to tell us who and what he really was because he died nearly 2,000 years ago.

10 - Interplay of Forces

Disaster is natural. It is not the curse of the gods, it is not punishment. Disaster results from the interplay of forces: the earthquake from pressures in the earth, the hurricane from wind and rain, even the accidental fire from a spark. We rush to ask "Why?" in the wake of a great disaster, but we should not let superstition interfere with dispassionate acceptance. There is no god visiting down destruction.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 10 ~
Let's face it. We humans like reasons. When something happens, we expect to be able to understand the variables that led to any given circumstance. Unfortunately, because of the limitations of the human intellect, we often can't take into account all the myriad variables and so we're often left groping for reasonable explanations.

This leads us to be uneasy. If we are unable to comprehend why such and such happened, what is to prevent it from happening again?!?

In order to assuage these feelings of inherent uncertainty, human society invented a mechanism to provide explanations when no explanations seems viable or tenable -- religion. When no other reasonable explanation can be proffered, the fashionable thing to say or think is that it's part of the deity's plan (i.e., only God knows).

Of course, this really isn't an answer at all. It's merely a very convoluted way of saying, "I don't have the foggiest notion of why or how such and such occurred."

In a world in which disaster is a frequent occurrence, the religion answer is supposed to provide people with solace and comfort. It does on a superficial level. On a deeper level, however, it doesn't work half as well as advertised because survey after survey has shown that the religiously devout are just as anxious and self-destructive as the rest of us. Even worse, the religiously devout tend to be more guilt-ridden because of the belief that their behavior or thought was the impetus for those disasters that visit them.

The uncertainty itself is bad enough, but the double whammy of guilt only compounds the situation.

148 - Not Proprietary

The true Tao is of no nationality, no religion. It is far beyond the conceptions of even the most brilliant human being, so it cannot be the property of one race or culture. The need to understand Tao is universal; people just give it different names in their native languages.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 148~
One reason that philosophical Taoism is not grasped by more people in the west is based on ethnocentrism; it comes from the east. Most westerners know little about Chinese history and culture, so they mistakenly believe that Taoist thought must be foreign to their sensibilities and, like it or not, too many people either fear or are suspicious of ideas they perceive as strange and different.

What I find remarkable is that the foundations of Taoism can be found in belief systems the world over. While it coalesced into one particular philosophy in China, many aspects of it can be found in the spiritual beliefs of American Indians, Gnostic Christians, a wide variety of metaphysical disciplines and even in mainline Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism.

While the imagery and phraseology may be different than what many in the west are used to, quite a number of the basic themes are not. This is precisely why blogs like this one exist: to show Americans and our western counterparts that Taoism fits into our society and civilization far more than most realize.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

One Savings Account

Many of my readers are ex-Christians. Some of the many blogs I frequent are written by ex-Christians. Two that I read religiously (obvious pun) are Restless Wanderings and On Leaving Fundamentalist Christianity. The comments section of these two blogs are filled with testy exchanges between ex-Christians and the still Christians who try to woo the former pack into the fold.

One of the arguments lodged frequently is that a former Christian must not have been a truly saved Christian in the first place or he/she would never have walked away. Bruce, the author of Restless Wanderings, and Lorena, author of On Leaving Fundamentalist Christianity, beg to differ. Both steadfastly claim -- and I have no reason to doubt them whatsoever -- that, when they were members of the evangelical flock, they believed in the tenets of their faith lock, stock and barrel!

Long ago, I too was a devout Christian. However, unlike Bruce & Lorena, I was a member of a more liberal Christian denomination: I was a Presbyterian. Questioning of belief and doctrine was more acceptable...well...within certain parameters. Though I thought of myself as a devout follower of the faith, I realize now that I probably never met the strict criteria of being saved.

Despite many years of church attendance, involvement in youth, young adult and adult church groups, studying my bible at every opportunity, and being immersed in the life of my church, there were always some nagging questions and doubts that I simply could not shake.

To be certain, I tried to shake them. I used to take long solitary hikes in the mountains around Hot Springs, Arkansas, with bible in hand. I would find a perch high above the valley floor and try earnestly to talk to God. But the only voice I ever heard was my own!! I sometimes tried to convince myself that God was speaking to me through my own voice, but I was far from convinced this was true.

Whenever the questions popped up, I did my best to shove them back down. Unfortunately, this only provided short-term relief because new questions continued to pop up. When I felt that the questions and doubts were consuming me, I was quite adept at mentally flogging myself for my lack of faith.

After I graduated from college in 1979, with the encouragement of my local pastor and church, I applied to seminary with the intent on becoming a Presbyterian minister. To my surprise, I was accepted. But that's as far as it went.

In trying mentally to prepare myself for seminary, I realized I had to face my questions and doubts. It is when I faced them front and center that I realized I couldn't go through with it. While I earnestly wanted to believe, the truth of the matter was that I didn't!! It just didn't add up to a belief system I could hang my hat on. There were simply too many contradictions and absurdities for me to take it seriously.

Initially, this realization was hard to stomach. I continued to be a nominal Christian for many years. In time, however, I found the experience to be liberating and I eventually found my way to philosophical Taoism.

Wen Tzu - Verse 153

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Three
Of the energies of the universe, none is greater than harmony. Harmony means the regulation of yin and yang, the division of night and day.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
One concept that is addressed again and again in the writings of philosophical Taoism is this idea of balance and harmony. However, I sometimes worry that the first concept, balance, may lead some people to get the wrong idea.

Too often, people envision balance as a scale in which both sides are equal. If one side loses a bit, then the other side loses a likewise amount. If one side gains a small measure, then the other side gains by the same proportion.

In terms of Taoist thought, the word balance should be understood in the same light as the word harmony. While things fit together in a balanced way, this does not mean everything is of the same number or same weight.

To illustrate this notion, think of harmony in terms of music. Some choral groups engage in complex harmonies and the result is an emotive piece of majestic music. At times, the tenors or sopranos may be louder, while the baritones and altos are softer. Yet, it all fits together to create one masterpiece!

In this same vein, the natural world exhibits harmony. Some days the sun reigns supreme over the land and, on other days, terrible storms pummel the earth. If we focus on the individual elements of our weather, they can often seem mightily out-of-balance. It is when we look at climate as a whole that we can see the synchronicity.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

159 - Voices

Writers write because they must: They need to express something from deep within themselves. They hear voices that others do not. They listen urgently, and they must communicate what they hear.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 159 ~
When I first became disabled, I was at a loss for what I would do with my time and how I could continue to be a productive member of society. So much of our adult lives is focused around work that to be a non-worker often means a loss of self-identity.

For the first year or two, I just sort of stumbled around. I dealt with some bouts of depression. I started seeing a mental health therapist. I lay awake at night staring at the ceiling and asked myself over and over again: What is your purpose in life now?

In time, I came to realize that I have a gift that I was under utilizing -- my writing. So, I began to treat this blog in a more serious and disciplined manner. With the exception for those times I'm physically ill or recovering from a medical procedure, I post one or more entries on this blog everyday.

I also realized that, by not working, I have the opportunity to do something that most people have too little time for -- deep thought.

Most people of my age and younger are consummate jugglers. Their lives demand that they must scurry about between job[s], partners, children and social interactions. They hardly have enough time to catch their breath. Since I don't work nor have any children and shun most social interaction, I'm like a juggler working with only one or two balls. :>)

So, I have committed my time to deep thought (listening to the voices only I can hear) and sharing with you what I can discern from those voices through my writings on this blog. In essence, I don't write simply because I want to -- I HAVE to.

It is my purpose.

Wen Tzu - Verse 152, Part II

from Verse One Hundred Fifty-Two
Ignorant rulers are not like this: they take from the people without assessing their strength, seek from their subjects without measuring their stores. Men and women cannot attend to their plowing and weaving, because they to provide for the demands of the rulers; their strength overexerted and their wealth exhausted, every morning they are unsure of living through the day. The rulers and their subjects hate each other.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
If you look at what's going on in the US today, there is a lot of exasperation and anger. This is one of the reasons for the rise of the Tea Party movement. It also is one of the motivations for many other types of groups (e.g., leftists, anarchists, militia movement, etc.).

People have lost their faith in good government. It doesn't seem to matter who is sitting in the Oval Office/Governor's Mansion or which party controls the Congress or legislature. Poll after poll indicates that the majority of citizens simply do not believe the government is looking out for their best interests.

If we take Lao Tzu's words to heart, it's easy to see WHY people feel this way -- our leaders and their constituents hate each other. This does not bode well for the future. Where strong enmity exists, violence and repression often follow!

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.