Sunday, July 17, 2005

Soul Food

Everybody on earth knowing
that beauty is beautiful
makes ugliness.

Everybody knowing
that goodness is good
makes wickedness.

For being and nonbeing
arise together;
hard and easy
complete each other;
long and short
shape each other;
high and low
depend on each other;
note and voice
make music together;
before and after
follow each other.

That's why the wise soul
does without doing,
teaches without talking.

The things of this world
exist, they are;
you can't refuse them.

To bear and not to own;
to act and not lay claim;
to do the work and let it go:
for just letting it go
is what makes it stay.


- Tao Te Ching #2 - Ursula K. LeGuin

Heck of a lot of good advice for living life here. It has taken me awhile to understand this duality business and today I have an intellectual understanding of it and have been working on internalizing it into daily life for a few years now.

Everybody on earth knowing
that beauty is beautiful
makes ugliness.


If blond haired, blue-eyed, big breasted, long legged, thin women are the standard of beauty then anyone that doesn't meet up to that standard is not-beautiful. Failure. Not good enough. Less than. Ugly. This is just one example but I think a clear one of the concept. Simple logic really. If this then not that. If that then not this. I do plenty of programming and that sort of thing is pretty clear. To extrapolate that out to cover dualism in all our thinking is what needs to happen though. I grew up in Chicago as a rabid Bears fan therefore I hate the Packers. Clear. Black and white logic. I have the right answer therefore if you don't agree with me then you are wrong. My religion is the true religion therefore your religion is false.

Everybody knowing
that goodness is good
makes wickedness.


More of the same yet here I also have the thought of rebellion. If a standard of good is defined and it is not my standard then I rebel and am wicked on purpose not simply because I didn't meet the standard but because I intentionally decided to trounce all over what someone else perceived as good. I am also aware today that what I consider to be good is not necessarily what someone else considers to be good. Our intentions are both to be good and follow the teachings we've been given since childhood but our personal perceptions of each others actions and words brand each other as wicked, evil, wrong.

I used to be driven by the need to be right. To get it right. To have the right answer. A counselor I had in my youth once asked me a question that bothered me for years. I had said something about needing to get something right and she said "Why?" I was totally baffled by the question. Was she implying that I should be trying to get it wrong? I had no concept of just how driven I was to achieve some illusion of appropriate rightness.

Being right is not all its cracked up to be. I have had more interpersonal difficulties over being right then I care to think about. I have offended more people by trying to assist them in being right (wouldn't you want to know when you'd gotten something wrong?)... and of course it has always been my idea of right with no clue that it's possible for someone else to have an equally valid concept of rightness totally at odds with my own. Today I have a better understanding of how right and wrong, good and bad, righteous and wicked, circle around that pivot, each having their moment and being at once equally important and meaningless.

For being and nonbeing
arise together;


The essence of the dualism concept. Pure simple mathematical logic when you think about it. If being then anything not being is not-being. What I didn't grasp before is that this applies to our thoughts. I had some cosmic idea of this referring to some state of matter existing and not existing but today I think I understand that the greatest import of this statement has to do with the conclusions and concepts of my mind. As soon as I decide that what I am looking at is a tree then the field of corn beyond it is obviously not-tree and so I name it something else... Corn. The moment I define (and limit) something within my mind it's negative value, that which is beyond the limit or definition, is also immediately defined. If spending time with my granddaughter is the most joyous thing in the world for me then having her taken away from me and not being allowed to spend time with her is the most painful experience in the world for me. I have been told that expectations are pre-meditated resentments and I believe that but here I think the same concept extends further into all our thinking processes.

hard and easy
complete each other;
long and short
shape each other;
high and low
depend on each other;
note and voice
make music together;
before and after
follow each other.


More evidence of the dependence of opposites. If there isn't something easy then there isn't anything to define hard against. If my wife and I were the same height then I wouldn't be tall and she wouldn't be short. If a tree falls in the woods and there is no hearing apparatus around to receive the soundwaves then no it doesn't make a sound. If I try to pick a fight with you and trash your position and you respond with a small smile and say "You may be right," then there is no fight.

That's why the wise soul
does without doing,


Hmmm. wei wu wei. Interesting stuff here. Turning theory into action words. The previous stuff all deals with thought, conception, perception. This deals with how one goes about their lives. Do without doing. I take this to mean, here in this context, that one goes about life doing the next responsible, next right, or next sober thing that is in front of them to do... without plan, without guile, without thought of consequence or reward. Simply doing what is put in front of us to do at the time it is put in front of us to do it. Keeping it about as simple as it gets really... hard to put into practice for someone like me that analyzes, plans, builds systems which in the darker recesses of mind becomes scheming, calculating, and manipulating.

teaches without talking.

It is established in chapter one that the way that can be spoken is not the true way. I have learned far more in my life by watching what others do and how they conduct themselves in situations then I have ever learned in words. My granddaughter has been a great example of this. She has been teaching me about the truly valuable things in life since the day she was born. As she grows and learns better communication skills I continue to learn from her but it is more in watching her struggles with the lessons of life then the pure and simple reactions of a child.

Another rendition of this chapter refers to the wordless teaching. It's all well and good to intellectualize this stuff and understand the concepts but this is living and breathing stuff and knowing it is meaningless if we aren't living it on a daily, moment to moment, basis... practicing these principles in all our affairs.

The things of this world
exist, they are;
you can't refuse them.


Yeah but we sure seem to try like hell don't we! LOL

Acceptance is a difficult concept. To accept things exactly as they are and not try to bend and shape them to how we would have them. Once again the idea of our preconceptions getting in the way. If we think things should be one way and evidence shows they are not then we try and set things right by forcing them to change and be the way we conceive. And since we are generally powerless to change the things of life we end up frustrated, angry, resentful, and bitter. If we have no pre-conceived notions of how things should be and simply accept them as they are, then there is no disappointment, resentment or frustration. Everything is ok with the world because it is exactly the way it is. Exactly the way it is supposed to be.

To bear and not to own;

Much fear stems from the idea of losing something we have or not getting something we want. This concept of ownership. Mine! All mine! Is another yin-yang thing. If it is mine then it is not yours. If it is yours then it is not mine. I am the youngest of five siblings. My oldest brother is the tough guy. My oldest sister is the smart one. My middle brother is people person, the worlds greatest guy. My next sister is the talented one. If they are those things then I am not them... or so I thought growing up and much into my adulthood. They owned those things and so I couldn't.

Grasping. I am learning not to grasp in desperation at things. It is ok. I do not need to be any of those things nor do I need to find some perceived equivalent that I can own as my own. I yam what I yam to quote the great philosopher Popeye... and what I am is ok. I do not need to be this or be that and this comparison business, comparing my insides to your outsides, is for the birds. It has no value.

I am also learning that I can put an idea out on the table and not live and die by whether or not it is accepted or not by the individual (in a relationship) or group (in a business setting). My worth and value do not depend on this anymore... well... at least, it's getting better.

to act and not lay claim;
to do the work and let it go:


There is a line in the writing called Just For Today that talks about doing someone a good turn but not getting found out. If anyone finds out then it doesn't count. It is kind of along the lines of the random acts of kindness bumper stickers. The Tao takes it further though. The JFT line always struck me as being not quite right and very difficult to do as well. The idea of being helpful without any expectation of reward or recognition is of course a good one but I get the sense that the idea of the Tao is to have this simply be such an ingrained habit, no, not even habit because that seems to imply a sense of duty or premeditation, but rather simply one of those next right things that we simply do because it is right there for us to do and we are to do it without thought or even consideration that it is a good thing that we are doing. We do it simply because that is what we are supposed to be doing at that moment. The problem with the JFT was this sense of premeditation and perhaps a building up of brownie points or something. The Tao seems to tell me not to even think about it as being good or bad, right or wrong, simply it is the next thing to be done in living life... like breathing and sleeping and eating.

I am very fond of saying to people that I work with that it is ours to do the footwork and to let go of the results. This has been a very important concept for me to grasp as it has helped to free me from that driving compulsion to get it right and stopped me from trying to force solutions or direct others actions but rather to simply do whatever it is that I am supposed to be doing at any given time... and then doing whatever is next.

for just letting it go
is what makes it stay.


There is no surer way to receive love and peace then to give it away in your every breath.

Peace

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