Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tao Bible - Proverbs 27:12

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.
~ King James version ~

Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before there is confusion.
~ from Verse 64 of the Tao Te Ching ~
It is amazing how often we see troubled waters ahead, but refuse to change course. We paddle straight into a whirlpool and then flail about trying to get out.

The best way to extricate oneself from a whirlpool is to avoid it in the first place!

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

Chapter 31, Part E - Chuang Tzu

"The yin and rang out of harmony, cold and heat so untimely that they bring injury to all things, feudal lords violent and unruly, wantonly attacking one another till they all but destroy the common people, rites and music improperly performed, funds and resources that are forever giving out, human relationships that are not ordered as they should be, the hundred clans contumacious and depraved - these are the worries of the Son of Heaven and his chancellors.

"Now on the higher level you do not hold the position of a ruler, a feudal lord, or a chancellor, and on the lower level you have not been assigned to the office of a high minister with its tasks and duties. Yet you presume to `bring a beautiful order to rites and music, to select what is proper in human relationships,' and in this way to `transform the ordinary people.' This is undertaking rather a lot, isn't it?
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.


I am fairly sure that most of you are familiar with the famous line written by Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." While I agree with this sentiment, I think a corollary is just as true. To wit, Impotence tends to corrupt; absolute impotence corrupts absolutely.

When the people feel powerless to impact the decisions of their leaders, a sense of utter hopelessness sets in.

When people search and search for jobs that don't exist in sufficient numbers, they begin to fall into deep depression and doubt their own worth as individuals.

When people become sick -- often through no direct fault of their own -- and they can't afford needed medical care and/or they go bankrupt in the effort to obtain some, frustration builds to the point that they feel they may implode.

When people face foreclosure of their homes and, try as they might, nothing they do to try to receive a loan modification works, they begin to feel as if the weight of the world is bearing down on their shoulders.

When all of these things and so much more start to pile up on citizen after citizen and resident after resident, the people begin to believe that nothing matters anymore. If nothing matters, then love, respect, civility and doing unto others as you would want them to do unto you loses its meaning.

People start to draw in and build artificial barriers around themselves. They look for scapegoats and many fall prey to the hateful rhetoric of demagogues. They lash out at their sisters and brothers as a way to try to assuage their own pain and abject powerlessness.

And, when people begin to feel absolutely impotent, the specter of indiscriminate violence isn't far behind.

Afternoon Matinee: How Did We Get Here?

Chapter 31, Part D - Chuang Tzu

"Creatures follow their own kind, a voice will answer to the voice that is like itself," said the stranger; "this has been the rule of Heaven since time began. With your permission, therefore, I will set aside for the moment my own ways and try applying myself to the things that you are concerned about. What you are concerned about are the affairs of men.

"The Son of Heaven, the feudal lords, the high ministers, the common people - when these four are of themselves upright, this is the most admirable state of order. But if they depart from their proper stations, there is no greater disorder. When officials attend to their duties and men worry about their undertakings, there is no overstepping of the mark.

"Fields gone to waste, rooms unroofed, clothing and food that are not enough, taxes and labor services that you can't keep up with, wives and concubines never in harmony, senior and junior out of order - these are the worries of the common man. Ability that does not suffice for the task, official business that doesn't go right, conduct that is not spotless and pure, underlings who are lazy and slipshod, success and praise that never come your way, titles and stipends that you can't hold on to - these are the worries of the high minister.

"A court lacking in loyal ministers, a state and its great families in darkness and disorder, craftsmen and artisans who have no skill, articles of tribute that won't pass the test, inferior ranking at the spring and autumn levees at court, failure to ingratiate himself with the Son of Heaven - these are the worries of a feudal lord.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Far Over the Line

The Obama administration appears to have given a green light to an Israeli attack on an unarmed flotilla carrying peace and human rights activists — including a vessel with 50 Americans on board — bound for the besieged Gaza Strip. At a press conference on June 24, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the flotilla organized by the Free Gaza Campaign by saying it would "provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves."

Clinton did not explain why a country had “the right to defend themselves” against ships which are clearly no threat. Not only have organizers of the flotilla gone to great steps to ensure are there no weapons on board, the only cargo bound for Gaza on the U.S. ship are letters of solidarity to the Palestinians in that besieged enclave who have suffered under devastating Israeli bombardments, a crippling blockade, and a right-wing Islamist government. Nor did Clinton explain why the State Department suddenly considers the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the port of Gaza to be “Israeli waters,” when the entire international community recognizes Israeli territorial waters as being well to the northeast of the ships’ intended route.
~ from Washington Okays Attack on Unarmed U.S. Ship by Stephen Zunes ~
Every time I read a story of this nature, it stupefies me that, on both sides of the mainstream political aisle, President Obama is viewed as a liberal or, by some, a socialist! Actions like this are more in line with Ronald Reagan or George Bush II. Can you imagine FDR, JFK or LBJ advancing this kind of policy rationale?

What gets me even more is that so many progressive-minded citizens see Obama as one of them. How can this be for a president who
  • allows the inhumane treatment of an American citizen not charged with a crime -- Bradley Manning -- to go on for nearly ten months?
  • authorizes the assassination of an American citizen who has no legal charges pending against him?
  • targets whistleblowers who expose corruption and deceit at the highest echelons of government?
  • surrounds himself with big business Wall Street types to guide the nation's economic policies?
  • goes off to war without bothering to seek Congressional approval as stipulated in the US Constitution?
  • sanctions torture, secret prisons, wiretapping, and widespread spying on citizens and foreigners alike?
This very partial list does not point to a leader who is progressive at all! These are conservative and reactionary positions. If times were a bit different today, Barack Obama would make an excellent choice for the REPUBLICAN nominee for President in 2012.

Line by Line - Verse 35, Lines 1-2

To him who holds in his hands the Great Image (of the invisible Tao), the whole world repairs. Men resort to him, and receive no hurt, but (find) rest, peace, and the feeling of ease.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

All men will come to him who keeps to the one,
For there lie rest and happiness and peace.

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

Hold the great image
All under heaven will come
They come without harm, in harmonious peace

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

Get right with Tao, and everybody wants to be your friend.
When they're around you, they enjoy a calm serenity.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
Individuals like the Dalai Lama, Jesus, Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., are/were people magnets. People wanted to be around them, listen to them and take up there causes. It wasn't because they were rich, powerful, popular or influential. It was because each man had/has an aura of peace and humility about him.

We all know people like this. Their presence brightens the room. Their tranquility calms choppy waters. Their humility provides a sense of serenity.

We feel better about ourselves and the world around us in their presence.

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

It Almost Always Comes Back to Greed

Greece’s debts are not terribly big; for example, French and German banks (its biggest lenders) hold about $90 billion in Greek debt. That’s less than the US spent on the war in Afghanistan last year. For a small country that’s a lot of money, but for the global financial system, it’s peanuts.

So why can’t European banks restructure the debt and give Greece more time to pay off its loans? Answer: healthy banks could do this, but European banks are not healthy. They lack the capital to cover the lost income from Greece’s regular debt payments. European banks are structured the same way US banks are: loans have been used as capital to support making further loans. In accounting terms, banks have treated their loans as tangible assets instead of the intangible assets that they truly are.

That’s common practice in the worldwide banking industry, and most of the negotiation over new reform rules for banks is about what banks should consider “capital” and how much capital banks should have on their books vs. how much money they can lend out. Regulators want banks to stop considering loans as capital, and they think banks should hold more cash as capital. The strictest regulators want banks to hold 14 percent of all their assets in cash (capital) to offset losses on loans. The banks are holding out for 7 percent or less, and are arguing about what should be considered “capital.”

Why are the banks fighting against a regulation that would help to stabilize the banking industry and avoid a situation where the collapse of a small country’s economy could threaten the health of their entire industry? Answer:

The more loans a bank can make, the more income it generates. Requiring banks to sit on piles of cash and stop using loans as capital would severely cut down on the amount of loans banks can make, thereby reducing the banks’ income. Huge bank profits mean huge bonuses for bankers and big profits for shareholders. Financial industry stocks have driven much of the growth on Wall Street in the past 15 years.

~ from Why Does Greece Matter? by Maria Tomchick ~
Have you noticed that, regardless of the nation or region, almost all economic problems in the world wind their way back to banks and/or Wall Street? As Tomchick points out, the chief culprit is one of the seven deadly sins: G-R-E-E-D.

I want to know why the leaders of Christianity -- particularly the fundamentalists -- focus so much of their attention on issues like marriage and abortion, yet they are remarkably silent when it comes to the amount of greed rampant in the world today!

Why doesn't Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church picket Bank of America or Goldman Sachs as a way of saying God is displeased with the way they conduct business?

Why doesn't the loony Terry Jones (the Koran burner) threaten to burn the collective written works of Milton Friedman because they represent a "bible" that goes against the Kingdom of God?

Why hasn't Pat Robertson declared that, when a bank goes under or a major corporation sees its stock prices tumble, it is because God is punishing the CEO and shareholders for leading immoral lives?

I'm just asking.

Chapter 31, Part C - Chuang Tzu

"What do you want?" asked the stranger.

"A moment ago, Sir," said Confucius, "you made a few cryptic remarks and then left. Unworthy as I am, I'm afraid I do not understand what they mean. If I might be permitted to wait upon you with all due humility and be favored with the sound of your august words, my ignorance might in time be remedied."

"Goodness!" exclaimed the stranger. "Your love of learning is great indeed!"

Confucius bowed twice and then, straightening up, said, "Ever since childhood I have cultivated learning, until at last I have reached the age of sixty-nine. But I have never yet succeeded in hearing the Perfect Teaching. Dare I do anything, then, but wait with an open mind?"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

"The World Under Heaven"

"The World Under Heaven"
by Scott Bradley

There are many in the world who apply themselves to some method or technique, and they all believe that what they possess is unimprovable. But in the end, where among them is what the ancients called 'the art of the Course [Tao]'. I say, there is nowhere it is not.
~ Zhuangzi, Chap. 33; B. Ziporyn ~
These lines introduce the final chapter in the Zhuangzi, "The World Under Heaven". We see this chapter often quoted by scholars because it is an invaluable source of information about the philosophies of numerous, oftentimes obscure, schools of thought in pre-Han China.

The basic outline of the chapter is an opening description of the complete and perfect expression of the Way that was to be found among the ancients, a completion now lost. There are some few scholars who, studying the Six (Confucian) Classics, continue this tradition. These are to be found in Lu (home of Confucius) and Zou (home of Mencius).

The rest of the chapter concerns itself with a catalogue of "nook and cranny scholars" who teach but one aspect of the Way, thinking it the whole. Two important philosophies have been conspicuously omitted, however. One is that of Yang (the preservation of one's own life is of paramount importance), whom Mencius thought a great danger to the world. I have read nothing suggesting why this might be. The second is Confucianism, at least by name. For it is, in fact, Confucianism which represents that complete understanding of the Way found among the ancients. This is a given, and it would be unacceptable to catalogue Confucius among the many exponents of the shattered Way.

The author, then, is a Confucian. But he is a Confucian who is also a bit of a syncretist and is able to see some aspect of the Way in most every philosophy he describes. Where is the Way? "I say there is nowhere it is not." This, I think, is a great stride forward from the rigidity of classic Confucianism.

He is almost Zhuangzian (all the expressions of human philosophy are as the sounds made by the one wind blowing through the forest), but not quite — he still believes there is one, complete and correct teaching. As is so often the case, he is himself guilty of precisely what he condemns in others, "believing what they possess is unimprovable."

Is the Way indeed shattered? Or is it rather that, just as each thing exists in and for itself, each must find its own unique way? If the Truth is simply what is, then is it not most perfectly expressed through and within each unique individuation?

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tao Bible - Proverbs 26:3

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
~ King James version ~

Horses' hoofs are made for treading frost and snow, their coats for keeping out wind and cold. To munch grass, drink from the stream, lift up their feet and gallop this is the true nature of horses. Though they might possess great terraces and fine halls, they would have no use for them.

Then along comes Po Lo. "I'm good at handling horses!" he announces, and proceeds to singe them, shave them, pare them, brand them, bind them with martingale and crupper, tie them up in stable and stall. By this time two or three out of ten horses have died. He goes on to starve them, make them go thirsty, race them, prance them, pull them into line, force them to run side by side, in front of them the worry of bit and rein, behind them the terror of whip and crop. By this time over half the horses have died.
~ from Chapter 9 of the Zhuangzi ~
Maybe if we "handled" horses better, we would not deal so severely with the unwise!

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

Chapter 31, Part B - Chuang Tzu

"Does he have any territory that he rules over?" asked the stranger, pursuing the inquiry.

"No," said Tzu-kung. "Is he the counselor to some king or feudal lord?"

"No," said Tzu-kung.

The stranger then laughed and turned to go, saying as he walked away, "As far as benevolence goes, he is benevolent all right. But I'm afraid he will not escape unharmed. To weary the mind and wear out the body, putting the Truth in peril like this - alas, I'm afraid he is separated from the Great Way by a vast distance indeed!"

Tzu-kung returned and reported to Confucius what had happened. Confucius pushed aside his lute, rose to his feet and said, "Perhaps this man is a sage!" Then he started down the embankment after him, reaching the edge of the lake just as the fisherman was about to take up his punting pole and drag his boat into the water. Glancing back and catching sight of Confucius, he turned and stood facing him. Confucius hastily stepped back a few paces, bowed twice, and then came forward.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

In The Same Boat

When Barack Obama swept into office in 2008, he did so on the back of a plethora of campaign promises. He then turned around and went back on most of them. (I have shared many articles that outline his backtracking, so I won't repeat that exercise here.) But to illustrate that backpedaling is a bipartisan activity, the GOP in 2010 is guilty of the same thing!

When the Republican tide took control of the US House of Representatives (as well as numerous state governments), what was the main issue they ran on? Jobs. Republicans vowed to put Americans back to work.

Yet, for all their rhetoric and bluster, the labor situation is about the ONLY thing they haven't even attempted to address. Thus far -- 6 months into their term -- they have offered no jobs plan at all! In fact, it could be argued that the legislation they HAVE supported to date would lessen the number of jobs available throughout the nation.

So, when it comes to campaign promises, both the Republicans and Democrats are in the same boat. They hone in on whatever it is that the majority of Americans are worried about and then they package a slick message around it. Once elected, they throw the package in the nearest trash receptacle.

To put it more bluntly, they lie through their teeth and they will keep to this time-honored strategy as long as the American sheeple fall for it!

Afternoon Matinee: The Madness of a Lost Society II

Chapter 31, Part A - Chuang Tzu

Confucius, after strolling through the Black Curtain Forest, sat down to rest on the Apricot Altar. While his disciples turned to their books, he strummed his lute and sang. He had not gotten halfway through the piece he was playing when an old fisherman appeared, stepped out of his boat, and came forward. His beard and eyebrows were pure white, his hair hung down over his shoulders, and his sleeves flapped at his sides.

He walked up the embankment, stopped when he reached the higher ground, rested his left hand on his knee, propped his chin with his right, and listened until the piece was ended. Then he beckoned to Tzu-kung and Tzu-lu, both of whom came forward at his call. The stranger pointed to Confucius and said, "What does he do?"

"He is a gentleman of Lu," replied Tzu-lu.

The stranger then asked what family he belonged to, and Tzu-lu replied, "The K'ung family."

"This man of the K'ung family," said the stranger, "what's his occupation?"

Tzu-lu was still framing his reply when Tzu-kung answered, "This man of the K'ung family in his inborn nature adheres to loyalty and good faith, in his person practices benevolence and righteousness; he brings a beautiful order to rites and music and selects what is proper in human relationships. Above, he pays allegiance to the sovereign of the age; below, he transforms the ordinary people through education, and in this way brings profit to the world. Such is the occupation of this man of the Kung family!"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

A Few of the Reasons I'm a Vegetarian

On the cut-and-kill floor of Quality Pork Processors Inc. in Austin, Minnesota, the wind always blows. From the open doors at the docks where drivers unload massive trailers of screeching pigs, through to the "warm room" where the hogs are butchered, to the plastic-draped breezeway where the parts are handed over to Hormel for packaging, the air gusts and swirls, whistling through the plant like the current in a canyon. In the first week of December 2006, Matthew Garcia felt feverish and chilled on the blustery production floor. He fought stabbing back pains and nausea, but he figured it was just the flu—and he was determined to tough it out.

Garcia had gotten on at QPP only 12 weeks before and had been stuck with one of the worst spots on the line: running a device known simply as the "brain machine"—the last stop on a conveyor line snaking down the middle of a J-shaped bench [DC] called the "head table." Every hour, more than 1,300 severed pork heads go sliding along the belt. Workers slice off the ears, clip the snouts, chisel the cheek meat. caption TK They scoop out the eyes, carve out the tongue, and scrape the palate meat from the roofs of mouths. Because, famously, all parts of a pig are edible ("everything but the squeal," wisdom goes), nothing is wasted. A woman next to Garcia would carve meat off the back of each head before letting the denuded skull slide down the conveyor and through an opening in a plexiglass shield.

On the other side, Garcia inserted the metal nozzle of a 90-pounds-per-square-inch compressed-air hose and blasted the pigs' brains into a pink slurry. One head every three seconds. A high-pressure burst, a fine rosy mist, and the slosh of brains slipping through a drain hole into a catch bucket. (Some workers say the goo looked like Pepto-Bismol; others describe it as more like a lumpy strawberry milkshake.) When the 10-pound barrel was filled, another worker would come to take the brains for shipping to Asia, where they are used as a thickener in stir-fry. Most days that fall, production was so fast that the air never cleared between blasts, and the mist would slick workers at the head table in a grisly mix of brains and blood and grease.

Tasks at the head table are literally numbing. The steady hum of the automatic Whizard knives gives many workers carpal tunnel syndrome. And all you have to do is wait in the parking lot at shift change to see the shambling gait that comes from standing in one spot all day on the line. For eight hours, Garcia stood, slipping heads onto the brain machine's nozzle, pouring the glop into the drain, then dropping the empty skulls down a chute.
Click on the links labeled "[DC]" to explore primary sources using DocumentCloud's suite of investigative tools.

And then, as the global economy hit the skids and demand for cheap meat skyrocketed, QPP pushed for more and more overtime. By early December, Garcia would return home spent, his back and head throbbing. But this was more than ordinary exhaustion or some winter virus. On December 11, Garcia awoke to find he couldn't walk. His legs felt dead, paralyzed. His family rushed him to the Austin Medical Center, not far from the subdivided Victorian they rented on Third Street. Doctors there sent Garcia to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, about an hour away. By the time he arrived, he was running a high fever and complaining of piercing headaches. He underwent a battery of exams, including MRIs of his head and back. Every test revealed neurological abnormalities, most importantly a severe spinal-cord inflammation, apparently caused by an autoimmune response. It was as if his body was attacking his nerves.

Garcia inserted a compressed-air hose and blasted the pigs' brains into a pink slurry. One head every three seconds.

By Christmas, Garcia had been bedridden for two weeks, and baffled doctors feared he might be suicidal. They sent a psychiatrist to prepare him for life in a wheelchair.

~ from The Spam Factory's Dirty Secret by Ted Genoways ~
Back in the days I worked as a social worker for the State of Arkansas, one of my clients worked at a Tyson Chicken plant. His job was to electrocute the chickens. Almost every time he came to my office for an appointment, he came straight from work. His uniform almost always was spattered with blood and guts -- he didn't smell very good either!

What a turnoff! It was around that time that I made the final decision to become a devout vegetarian. (I had toyed with the idea for several years previous and had gone through stints as a non meat-eater.)

It just got to the point for me that there were too many strikes against eating meat. Factory farming methods don't appear to be the most sanitary and they certainly aren't humane. The workers at these big agribusiness plants aren't treated much better than the animals they slaughter. Just like everything else in this corporatized nation, the big wigs cut corners in the areas of health, safety and the environment to fatten their own wallets!

Pass me another carrot, please.

Line by Line - Verse 34, Lines 10-11

Hence the sage is able (in the same way) to accomplish his great achievements. It is through his not making himself great that he can accomplish them.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

It does not show greatness,
And is therefore truly great.

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

Even in the end, it does not regard itself as great
That is how it can achieve its greatness

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

It doesn't strive for success. That's why it succeeds.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
When we each are concerned with our self-image, our focus is divided. Instead of paying attention to whatever it is we have undertaken, one eye always is glancing in the mirror. We become drunk from gazing at our own reflection!

When our attention is fixed solely upon what we are doing -- without regard to power, wealth, status or popularity -- we can achieve great things. Our accomplishments are great because we're not trying so damn hard to make them so!

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

Them "Wetbacks" Are a Money Drain

According to many folks, "wetbacks" -- a derogatory term for illegal immigrants, particularly those who hail from Mexico -- are a money drain on the local, state and national economy. Supposedly they pay little or no taxes, yet utilize all sorts of government-based assistance programs. We spend money on educating their children and we subsidize their health care. Even worse, it is said they steal jobs from hardworking, red-blooded Americans.

If you listen long enough to the haters of "wetbacks," you would come to think that their presence represents a big drag on this country's economic lifeblood.

Of course, this picture is wholly unrealistic. Farmworkers -- legal or illegal -- are the main reason food prices in this country are still within reach of most families. If these farmworkers were removed from the picture, consumer prices would be significantly higher than they are now. With so many Americans unemployed, a lot of people would not be able to afford basic food stuffs and the poverty rate would show a steady increase.

We may soon get to see if my assessment is correct. The states of Alabama, Arizona and Georgia have passed stringent legislation aimed at illegal immigrants and, two of those states, have a lot of farms and cropland.

A recent report from Georgia indicates that over 11,000 agricultural jobs are going unfilled and attempts to get unemployed probationers to fill these positions is not going well. It seems that American citizens don't like the backbreaking work in stifling heat for meager pay!

I find it truly ironic that those who support these draconian illegal immigrant legislative efforts will soon see an actual money drain -- just not the kind they expect! With illegal immigrants staying away from their states, crops will rot in the field and agricultural revenue will drop. Less crops picked means more farms going under and higher prices for consumers.

All in all, these legislative efforts at least are consistent; they represent a lose-lose-lose proposition for all concerned.

Bravo, bigots. Bravo.

Chapter 30, Part G - Chuang Tzu

The king said, "What is the sword of the commoner like?"

"The sword of the commoner? It is used by men with tousled heads and bristling beards, with slouching caps tied with plain, coarse tassels and robes cut short behind, who glare fiercely and speak with great difficulty, who slash at one another in Your Majesty's presence. Above, it lops off heads and necks; below, it splits open livers and lungs. Those who wield this sword of the commoner are no different from fighting cocks - any morning their lives may be cut off. They are of no use in the administration of the state.

"Now Your Majesty occupies the position of a Son of Heaven, and yet you show this fondness for the sword of the commoner. If I may be so bold, I think it rather unworthy of you!

The king thereupon led Chuang Tzu up into his hall, where the royal butler came forward with trays of food, but the king merely paced round and round the room.

"Your Majesty should seat yourself at ease and calm your spirits," said Chuang Tzu., "The affair of the sword is all over and finished!"

After this, King Wen did not emerge from his palace for three months, and his swordsmen all committed suicide in their quarters.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Other People

Other People
by Scott Bradley

"Hell is other people." — Jean-Paul Sartre

The fact that others objectify my subjectivity momentarily devalues that subjectivity. However, in objectifying their subjectivity, I restore my own. I am the world, so don’t butt in with your own. This, I think, is what Sartre was saying in this oft-quoted line. I would like to give it a different spin.

Other people are hell to the extent that we ever expected them to be anything else than what they are, namely, people. If we expect them to be saints or sages, they will most certainly disappoint us. And, if we let it, that will torment us.

Perhaps I am just a misanthrope, but it seems to me that every individual human being, and humanity as a whole, is pretty messed up. Yes, there are wonderful qualities in most everyone and in every society, but the fact remains, we are a mess. Ask Earth. Spend time in Africa. Consider your own country. Join a ‘community’. Be honest with yourself.

Or maybe it's just me.

Every religious sect, or spiritual persuasion (which usually amounts to the same thing), has its hagiology, its saints. The best saints are dead. Indeed, the only truly good saint is a dead one. Otherwise, if they are assessable to us, they are eventually revealed as just people. And to discover that your saint is an ego-bound mess just like you, is hell indeed. Perhaps this explains the cognitive dissonance required to see any living person as a saint, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. It's easier to believe a lie than to face the truth.

The fact is, of course, that as I said before, Pogo had it right: "We have seen the enemy, and they is us." We are people and part of being a person is to find the imperfections of other people hellish. This is a curious thing, since we are all equally imperfect. And there is no greater evidence of this than that another’s ego should upset my own.

True 'saintliness', if there is any such thing, must certainly be to care nothing about, and be absolutely unaffected by, any of these messes at all, including one’s own. And that would seem to require a transcendence of ego whereby there would be no ‘face’ or ‘space’ to lose. That would be heaven indeed. But to believe this 'saintliness' to actually be manifest in someone else, would most likely be to just invite more hell. It is never really about ‘other people’ at all, saintly or otherwise, but always just about ‘me’.

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

Oh, Why the Heck Not!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tao Bible - Proverbs 25:28

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.
~ King James version ~

Knowing the self is enlightenment.
...Mastering the self needs strength.
~ from Verse 33 of the Tao Te Ching ~
We spend so much of our lives focusing on and criticizing others. The true virtue of a person is to know thyself. If we can't learn to tame our own craven lusts and desires, how can we expect any more of someone else?

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

Tonite on Countdown, 6/28/11

Here's a new feature that will appear weeknights one or more times per week. As you should know, I'm a big Keith Olbermann fan and I try to watch Countdown on Current TV most nights of the week. When something on the program piques my interest, it will appear in this time slot...most of the time. ;-)

Tonight, Keith noted that it is the contention of Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann that eliminating the federal minimum wage would create jobs and spur the economy.

On count number one -- creating more jobs -- she most likely is correct. If employers could pay as little as possible, then real wages would go down. While it is very likely that many employers simply would pocket the savings, I have no doubt that some of that money would go toward hiring more people.

However, on count number two -- spurring the economy -- I think Bachmann has her head up her ass! If wages shot down, more of the working poor (possibly, the middle class too) would need various types of federal and state assistance just to get by from month-to-month. The Food Stamp rolls alone would explode.

Since Republicans like Bachmann also favor steep tax cuts, government at all levels would find itself in a terrible bind. More and more people would be signing up for assistance at the same time that assistance programs would be decreasing. So, while more people might be working, poverty figures would go through the roof.

The country would be in worse shape than it is now.

Chapter 30, Part F - Chuang Tzu

King Wen, dumbfounded, appeared to be at an utter loss. Then he said, "What is the sword of the feudal lord like?"

"The sword of the feudal lord? It has wise and brave men for its point, men of purity and integrity for its blade, men of worth and goodness for its spine, men of loyalty and sageliness for its swordguard, heroes and prodigies for its hilt. This sword too, thrust forward, meets nothing before it; raised, it encounters nothing above; pressed down, it encounters nothing beneath it; whirled about, it meets nothing surrounding it.

"Above, it takes its model from the roundness of heaven, following along with the three luminous bodies of the sky. Below, it takes its model from the squareness of earth, following along with the four seasons. In the middle realm, it brings harmony to the wills of the people and peace to the four directions. This sword, once put into use, is like the crash of a thunderbolt: none within the four borders of the state will fail to bow down in submission, none will fail to heed and obey the commands of the ruler. This is the sword of the feudal lord."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Bernie Sanders Takes On Washington

Afternoon Matinee: The Madness of a Lost Society I

Chapter 30, Part E - Chuang Tzu

"There is the sword of the Son of Heaven, the sword of the feudal lord, and the sword of the commoner."

"What is the sword of the Son of Heaven like?" asked the king.

"The sword of the Son of Heaven? The Valley of Yen and the Stone Wall are its point, Ch'i and Tai its blade, Chin and Wey its spine, Chou and Sung its sword guard, Han and Wei its hilt.' The four barbarian tribes enwrap it, the four seasons enfold it, the seas of Po surround it, the mountains of Ch'ang girdle it. The five elements govern it, the demands of punishment and favor direct it. It is brought forth in accordance with the yin and yang, held in readiness in spring and summer, wielded in autumn and winter.

"Thrust it forward and there is nothing that will stand before it; raise it on high and there is nothing above it; press it down and there is nothing beneath it; whirl it about and there is nothing surrounding it. Above, it cleaves the drifting clouds; below, it severs the sinews of the earth. When this sword is once put to use, the feudal lords return to their former obedience and the whole world submits. This is the sword of the Son of Heaven."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

When the Branches Are Sick

Owing to a metaphor I utilized back on June 18, it seems to me the time has come for the American people to get out the pruning shears. The plant that we call the USA is struggling to survive and its three main branches -- the executive, legislative and judicial -- have been bought and sold by the corporate interests.

Not a day goes by anymore -- at least at the federal level -- in which we learn that the people have been sold down the river yet again. (It happens with increasing frequency on the state and local level too.) We read or hear that the president, Congress or the court system has dealt us another blow by raising up the corporate class to dizzying heights.

As any gardener knows, when a bush or tree is struggling to survive, sometimes the best medicine is to cut off the dead branches in the hopes that the plant can regenerate itself. In this same vein, the three branches of federal government are dead to us and so the time has come to quit relying on them to blossom.

It doesn't matter who we elect to serve and it doesn't matter who our elected representatives choose to serve on the judiciary. Over the past 25 years, we have sent countless numbers of Democrats and Republicans to our nation's capitol and, regardless of the configuration, the drumbeat toward corporate ascendancy pushes ever higher.

If we continue to utilize the same worn out methods as before -- voting, petitions, letters to the editor, op-eds and an occasional protest march -- the garden of the American Dream will be hopelessly overrun with the weeds of corporatism. These weeds will commandeer almost all of the rainwater that falls, the majority of the nutrients in the soil and the bulk of the rays of sunlight. The rest of us will slowly wither away to become nothing more than the dried out husks of our former selves.

Line by Line - Verse 34, Line 9

--it may be named in the greatest things.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

It is very great.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

It can be named great
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Pretty impressive, huh?
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
adj. great·er, great·est
1. Very large in size.
2. Larger in size than others of the same kind.
3. Large in quantity or number: A great throng awaited us. See Synonyms at large.
4. Extensive in time or distance: a great delay.
5. Remarkable or outstanding in magnitude, degree, or extent: a great crisis.
6. Of outstanding significance or importance: a great work of art.
7. Chief or principal: the great house on the estate.
8. Superior in quality or character; noble: "For he was great, ere fortune made him so" (John Dryden).
9. Powerful; influential: one of the great nations of the West.
10. Eminent; distinguished: a great leader.
11. Grand; aristocratic.
12. Informal Enthusiastic: a great lover of music.
13. Informal Very skillful: great at algebra.
14. Informal Very good; first-rate: We had a great time at the dance.

Whatever it is that makes life possible, it certainly meets most, if not all, of these definitions!

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

So Weird

Last night I could hardly flex my right wrist up or from side-to-side without excruciating pain. Even jostling it ever so slightly sent shooting pains up into my shoulder. The little pecking I did on this blog had to be done with my left hand.

And yet, when I woke up this morning, the pain has abated by about 75%! My wrist remains sore, but the swelling and heat are completely gone. My range of motion has returned as well.

This aptly describes the weird life of someone with Fibromyalgia! Pain can be so intense one day and then be gone the next. A body part that is stiff and hot to the touch in the morning may not be so 12 hours later. And you never know when and where it will strike next.

As I sit here before my computer -- typing relatively pain-free with my right hand, no less -- I'm trying to figure out if this flare-up has run its course or if the pain site has moved. My left shoulder doesn't feel so good, but at this point, I'm unsure if it's just routine soreness or the next focal point.

Regardless, I am simply happy my right wrist is functional again!

Chapter 30, Part D - Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu said, "The wielder of the sword makes a display of emptiness, draws one out with hopes of advantage, is behind-time in setting out, but beforehand in arriving. May I be allowed to try what I can do?"

The king said, "You may leave now, Sir, and go to your quarters to await my command. When I am ready to hold the bout, I will request your presence again."

The king then spent seven days testing the skill of his swordsmen. Over sixty were wounded or died in the process, leaving five or six survivors who were ordered to present themselves with their swords outside the king's hall. Then the king sent for Chuang Tzu, saying, "Today let us see what happens when you cross swords with these gentlemen."

Chuang Tzu said, "It is what I have long wished for."

"What weapon will you use, Sir," asked the king, "a long sword or a short one?"

"I am prepared to use any type at all. It happens that I have three swords - Your Majesty has only to indicate which you wish me to use. If I may, I will first explain them, and then put them to the test."

"Let me hear about your three swords," said the king.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

In Less Than a Decade

I will post several interesting -- well, I think they are interesting -- videos today simply because it is easier and less painful to cut-and-paste YouTube snippets than it is to type text like this!

My Satanic Verses

My Satanic Verses
by Scott Bradley

I have spoken before of the satanic verses. For some reason, even before Rushdie, they have been an object of curiosity for me. As best as I have been able to determine, these verses made a momentary appearance in the Koran before being expunged. Apparently, they sanctioned the worship of some goddesses as a concession to a certain tribe or city in order to gain their support during the initial wars of conquest by Islam. Instead of being inspired by the Archangel Gabriel, as was generally the case, Mohammed was inadvertently fed some thoughts by Satan. These things happen.

And they happen to me, as well, though I do not subscribe to a 'spiritual' interpretation of them. Rather they are inspired by 'darker' forces within me, things that I do not want to think or feel, but do just the same. And so I have a special file labeled 'unpublished posts' in which I put those posts deemed unfit for public airing. It contains, at the moment, only three.

It is no easy thing for me to put them there, for I think them well-written and expressive of things I really want to say. But I have been trying to learn to let content and impact on the reader take precedence over the word-power I imagine myself to have created. This sounds easy and obvious enough, but I have often sent letters about which an inner voice has warned me to reconsider sending, only to have them come back to bite me in reciprocated negativity. So, I try and follow the rule: If there is doubt, put it in drafts.

There is also another consideration which I try and keep in mind, however, and that is honesty. If I don't occasionally reveal my 'issues', then I am misrepresenting myself to you. So, I do not always expunge 'pray for plague' heresies or my judgmental feelings toward other, primarily religious, points of view. In other words, I try and keep the hypocrisy quotient tolerably low.

And when I do expose my failures to be as I wish I were, it is a great help to hear my imaginary sage, Zhouzi, say, “So, what? Who are you trying to impress? There are no conditions to meet, Grasshopper.”

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

Monday, June 27, 2011

Brace For It

I have been diagnosed with a bad case of tendinitis in my right wrist. My hand and wrist are in a splint-like brace. This means it is far more difficult for me to post things on the blog because I am a one-fingered, right-handed typist. I am v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y typing this post with my left hand.

Because this condition most likely is connected to my Fibromyalgia, I have no idea how long it will last. It may be gone (moved on to somewhere else) by tomorrow or it may hang on for quite a while. Needless to say, until it improves somewhat, I won't post much. It's a good thing I tend to write ahead, so there will be posts for the ongoing series into the near to mid future.

Chapter 30, Part C - Chuang Tzu

"But the kind of swordsmen my father receives," said the crown prince, "all have tousled heads and bristling beards, wear slouching caps tied with plain, coarse tassels, and robes that are cut short behind; they glare fiercely and have difficulty getting out their words. Men like that he is delighted with! Now, Sir, if you should insist upon going to see him in scholarly garb, the whole affair would go completely wrong from the start."

"Then allow me to get together the garb of a swordsman," said Chuang Tzu. After three days, he had his swordsman's costume ready and went to call on the crown prince. The crown prince and he then went to see the king. The king, drawing his sword, waited with bare blade in hand. Chuang Tzu entered the door of the hall with unhurried steps, looked at the king but made no bow.

The king said, "Now that you have gotten the crown prince to prepare the way for you, what kind of instruction is it you intend to give me?"

"I have heard that Your Majesty is fond of swords, and so I have come with my sword to present myself before you."

"And what sort of authority does your sword command?" asked the king.

"My sword cuts down one man every ten paces, and for a thousand li it never ceases its flailing!"

The king, greatly pleased, exclaimed, "You must have no rival in the whole world!"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Afternoon Matinee: The Hippies Were Right

Chapter 30, Part B - Chuang Tzu

"I had heard, Sir," said the crown prince, "that you are an enlightened sage, and I wished in all due respect to offer this thousand in gold as a gift to your attendants. But if you refuse to accept it, then I dare say no more about the matter."

Chuang Tzu said, "I have heard that the crown prince wishes to employ me because he hopes I can rid the king of this passion of his. Now if, in attempting to persuade His Majesty, I should arouse his anger and fail to satisfy your hopes, then I would be sentenced to execution. In that case, what use could I make of the gold? And if I should be able to persuade His Majesty and satisfy your hopes, then what could I ask for in the whole kingdom of Chao that would not be granted me?"

"The trouble is," said the crown prince, "that my father, the king, refuses to see anyone but swordsmen."

"Fine!" said Chuang Tzu. "I am quite able to handle a sword."
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Just Wait

Before heading to bed last night, I checked my various news feeds one last time. One of the links sent me to a great cartoon. The focus of the barb is this: In many states, a woman must go through a waiting period before she can have an abortion, but the President of the United States unilaterally can go to war at the drop of a hat.

It is a novel way to drive home a sharp point. Via our laws, we require a waiting period before ending the existence of one faceless individual -- and that's predicated on the belief that a fetus is a viable human -- yet there is no mandated waiting period for a president to order the end of existence for hundreds or thousands of faceless individuals. It is particularly odd for conservatives to come to the aid of the one (the unborn), but they are just as willing to throw the many (the born) under the bus.

As I have pointed out before, I believe the reason WHY so many people are ardent "pro-lifers" is that a fetus represents a blank slate. We can project on it any attributes we desire and, in the fetal state, it can't object or disappoint us. So, for many people, the unborn comes to signify the ideal human.

And ideal humans -- not flesh-and-blood ones -- must be protected at all costs.

Line by Line - Verse 34, Lines 7-8

All things return (to their root and disappear), and do not know that it is it which presides over their doing so;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

The ten thousand things return to it,
Yet it is not their lord.

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

Myriad things return to it but it does not rule over them
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

Everything leads to Tao,
but Tao still doesn't call attention to itself.

~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
When we think of a master, king or lord, we think of how this type of person is over or above others. The underlings owe their allegiance to these "superiors" who kind of, sort of serve as their protector. I say "kind of, sort of" because the master tends to protect those under him ONLY when it serves his interests.

Tao is different. While life could not exist without the Way, Tao asks for no allegiances. In fact, Tao asks for nothing.

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


Anyone who has a chronic connective tissue disorder like Fibromyalgia (or other similar disorders) certainly will understand this post experientially. If you're lucky not to be beset with a condition that features flares or episodes, then hopefully this post will be informative.

I seem to be in the grips of one of my frequent flares. This time around my body is attacking its own tendons. In the course of the past 7 - 10 days, the pain and inflammation has targeted my lefty knee, then my left elbow and now my right wrist just below the pinkie finger. This latest afflicted body part makes typing a bit difficult and far more painful than usual.

As is not atypical, it snuck up on me rather innocently. I woke up one day with the slightest soreness in my left knee. Over the course of 24 hours, it went from a slight annoyance to massive pain. It got to the point that I was icing it almost every hour and had to use my cane to get around.

Was this a new flare or had I injured myself somehow? It is a question I ask myself frequently. Flare-ups don't announce themselves with any fanfare. There is no neon sign in the background flashing the words, "Flare-up in progress." Many of my episodes begin so gradually that I don't realize I am having a flare-up until it blows up.

In addition, each flare-up is different. The symptoms I experience are all over the map. The pain and inflammation can strike ligaments, muscles or tendons. Sometimes it is accompanied by overarching fatigue -- I can sleep for 10 - 16 hours in a day. At other times, I suffer terrible insomnia and can go for days with little more than 2 or 3 hours of sleep every 24 hours. I have experienced extreme light sensitivity which can get so bad that I wear sunglasses indoors at night. And the list of weird sensations and maladies goes on and on.

So, when my knee began to feel like it was broken, my initial reaction was that I must have injured myself. It only dawned on me that there was no injury -- instead this was my next flare -- when, 2 days after hobbling around with a cane, I awoke one morning and the pain in my knee had dissipated greatly and had now migrated to my left elbow.

It remained in my elbow for only about 18 hours before shifting to my right wrist -- where it has stayed for the better part of two and one-half days. Who knows how long it will remain there and where it will move to next! I have no way of knowing if this flare will be of a relatively short duration OR if this will be one of those that hangs on for weeks...or months. Ugh.

While I refuse to allow Fibromyalgia and the accompanying pain to define my life, there is no question that it provides a framework that I must operate within. Some days the framework is more forgiving; at other times, the framework is very, very confining.

Chapter 30, Part A - Chuang Tzu

In ancient times King Wen of Chao was fond of swords. Expert swordsmen flocked to his gate, and over three thousand of them were supported as guests in his household, day and night engaging in bouts in his presence till the dead and wounded numbered more than a hundred men a year. Yet the king's delight never seemed to wane and things went on in this way for three years, while the state sank into decline and the other feudal lords conspired against it.

The crown prince K'uei, distressed at this, summoned his retainers about him and said, "I will bestow a thousand pieces of gold upon any man who can reason with the king and make him give up these sword fights!"

"Chuang Tzu is the one who can do it," said his retainers.

The crown prince thereupon sent an envoy with a thousand pieces of gold to present to Chuang Tzu, but Chuang Tzu refused to accept the gift. Instead he accompanied the envoy on his return and went to call on the crown prince. "What instructions do you have for me, that you present me with a thousand pieces of gold?" he asked.
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

The Pride of Life

The Pride of Life
by Scott Bradley

"These primeval solitudes [should]...suspend your forced sense of your own importance not merely as individuals, but as men. They allow you, in one happy moment, at once to play and to worship, to take yourselves simply, humbly, for what you are, and to salute the wild, indifferent, non-censorious infinity of nature."
~ George Santayana (quoted by Sessions in Deep Ecology) ~
Having written this beautiful quote, I feel reluctant to pursue my more mundane theme, the pride of life, and pull you away from the rich lode above. I hope that you will spend time with it and perhaps experientially "salute the wild, indifferent, non-censorious infinity of nature."

"The pride of life" is one of three sins which Paul mentions together. The other two are "the lust of the flesh" and "the lust of the eyes", both of which I recommend. The pride of life, on the other hand, is a quality which I believe can very negatively effect our connectedness to all of the life experience — the experience of ourselves, others, and the Universe.

What it is exactly has been a question I have long pondered.

It is a quality easily discernable in certain others and sometimes even in my own self, but not easily articulated. Perhaps it might be defined as the presumption of life as a thing possessed. Thinking that one 'has' a life and the qualities that adhere to that life--beauty, intelligence, spirituality — is a way of closing oneself off from life. It is a kind of self-possession which requires that I be other than and separate from all else, even my own source.

I do not, however, truly 'have' a life. It is more that life has me. It is all a wonderful gift, but also a very tenuous and fleeting one. Standing alone, self-contained and dominant, I can feel myself in charge and powerful, but I have built my fortress on sand and cut myself off from my rootedness in the Transforming Openness which requires the surrender of absolute individuation. Santayana recommends a moment in the presence of the infinite Universe to help us return to the humility of our tiny lives.

The pride of life is not all bad, of course. The guys who have the most of it usually get the most 'girls', though I suspect the experience is not as happy for either them or the 'girls' as we might imagine. But let's not fool ourselves, our human world often rewards values at odds with what is 'best' for us all.

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

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tao Bible - Proverbs 25:16

Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.
~ King James version ~

Even healthy things can become bad if we don't learn the skill of moderation.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
It seems like every month there is some new fad diet. A "wonder food" is identified and people are urged to eat it like there is no tomorrow. However, like both of the above passages indicate, good things in excess can be just as harmful as bad things.

Moderation in all we do is key.

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

Chapter 29, Part 3D - Chuang Tzu

"But in order to maintain a reputation like theirs," said Never-Enough, "one must punish the body and give up everything sweet, skimp and save merely to keep life going - in which case one is no different from a man who goes on year after year in sickness and trouble, never allowed to die!"

Sense-of-Harmony said, "A just measure brings fortune, an excess brings harm - this is so of all things, but much more so in the case of wealth. The ears of the rich man are regaled with sounds of bell and drum, flute and pipe; his mouth is treated to the flavor of grass- and grain-fed animals, of rich wine, until his desires are aroused and he has forgotten all about his proper business - this may be called disorder.

"Mired and drowned by swelling passions, he is like a man who carries a heavy load up the slope of a hill - this may be called suffering. Greedy for riches, he brings illness on himself; greedy for power, he drives himself to exhaustion. In the quietude of his home, he sinks into languor; body sleek and well-nourished, he is puffed up with passion - this may be called disease.

"In his desire for wealth, his search for gain, he crams his rooms to overflowing, as it were, and does not know how to escape, yet he lusts for more and cannot desist - this may be called shame. More wealth piled up than he could ever use, yet he is covetous and will not leave off, crowding his mind with care and fatigue, grasping for more and more with never a stop - this may be called worry. At home he is suspicious of the inroads of pilferers and inordinate demanders; abroad he is terrified of the attacks of bandits and robbers. At home he surrounds himself with towers and moats; abroad he dares not walk alone - this may be called terror.

"These six - disorder, suffering, disease, shame, worry, and terror - are the greatest evils in the world. Yet all are forgotten and he does not know enough to keep watch out for them. And once disaster has come, then, though he seeks with all his inborn nature and exhausts all his wealth in hopes of returning even for one day to the untroubled times, he can never do so.

"Therefore he who sets his eyes on reputation will find that it is nowhere to be seen; he who seeks for gain will find that it is not to be gotten. To entrap the mind and the body in a scramble for such things - is this not delusion indeed?"
~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

Afternoon Matinee: How JP Morgan Gets Rich With Increased Poverty

Chapter 29, Part 3C - Chuang Tzu

Sense-of-Harmony said, "When the wise man goes about doing something, he always moves for the sake of the hundred clans and does not violate the rules. Thus, if there is enough, he does not scramble for more. Having no reason to, he seeks nothing. But if there is not enough, he seeks, scrambling in all four directions, yet he does not think of himself as greedy. If there is a surplus, he gives it away. He can discard the whole empire and yet not think of himself as high-minded. Greed or high-mindedness in fact have nothing to do with standards imposed from the outside - they represent a turning within to observe the rules that are found there.

"So a man may wield all the power of a Son of Heaven and yet not use his high position to lord it over others; he may possess all the wealth in the empire and yet not exploit his riches to make a mock of others. He calculates the risk, thinks of what may be contrary and harmful to his inborn nature. Therefore he may decline what is offered him, but not because he hopes for reputation and praise.

"Yao and Shun ruled as emperors and there was harmony - but not because they sought to bring benevolence to the world; they would not have let `goodness' injure their lives. Shan Ch'uan and Hsu Yu had the opportunity to become emperors and declined, but not because they wished to make an empty gesture of refusal; they would not have let such matters bring harm to themselves.

"All these men sought what was to their advantage and declined what was harmful. The world praises them as worthies, and it is all right if they enjoy such repute - but they were not striving for any reputation or praise."

~ Burton Watson translation via Terebess Asia Online ~
Go here to read the introductory post to the chapters of the Book of Chuang Tzu.

One Day

One of the major aspects of growing old -- entering one's twilight years -- is having to face-up with our own mortality. It certainly isn't the kind of topic to dwell on, but the older you get, the more you realize your last day on earth will come.

I am not suggesting that we aren't aware of this inevitability when we are younger. We each know that our lives can stop at any moment. A fatal car accident. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time. An illness or deadly disease that strikes too young. A stray bullet. But once we have dodged the various accidents, illnesses and unexpected occurrences for several decades, the knowledge that life will end someday for one reason or another takes on a level of immediacy.

It might not be today, next week, next month, next year or even next decade, but, nonetheless, it is far closer than it is farther! And each day that we cross off the list only moves that unknown date closer still.

When I was younger, I was frightened by the idea of my own death. I would lay awake at night wondering if there is an afterlife and what it might entail. My death no longer captures my imagination. If there IS an afterlife, I'll find out about it once I cross the veil. If there isn't an afterlife, then once I breathe my last breath, I won't know it anyway.

The thing that does continue to capture my imagination is the PROCESS of death. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that dy-ing remains a scary proposition. Since it won't be part of a routine that I am familiar with, I worry that I will die in bad form and there will be no one empowered to grant me a brief do-over of those last throes!

Line by Line - Verse 34, Line 6

-it may be named in the smallest things.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

It has no aim; it is very small.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Ever desiring nothing
It can be named insignificant

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

It wants for nothing. Think nothing of it.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from, 2004 ~
When we speak of significance in everyday conversation, we generally refer to something that is prominent, bold, decisive or large in size. It is a factor that stands out and/or calls attention to itself.

But as Derek Lin remarks,
The Tao seems insignificant because it remains in the background. Its workings are subtle, imperceptible, and easy for most people to overlook.
And so, we are presented with another of the many paradoxes within philosophical Taoism. Because the mysterious Way does not call attention to itself, we deem the most significant element of life as not all that important.

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