Monthly Archives: October 2004

Valley

Gu. Valley.

The valley is low. Thus, all things flow toward it. It is receptive. Therefore, fertility increases in it, without it “doing” anything.

It is open, making it the ideal place to receive the sun’s life-giving light. Therefore it gains all that the heavens have to offer.

The valley accomplishes everything while doing nothing but being low and open.

By maintaining our modesty and by not considering anything beneath us, we can gain everything.

By being receptive, we can avail ourselves of the spiritual wealth available to us.

By being open, we can receive things beyond what we ourselves might imagine.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

I’ve always tried to be open to new things and new people, but recently I’ve cut myself off more from being open. It’s difficult to open yourself up again after having been badly hurt and damaged. I think I’ve built up enough strength now to be more open again, though. My expectations of people are much changed, though. I don’t expect other people to see things as deeply as I do anymore, to feel things so deeply. I’ve come to understand that other people simply aren’t like me, that most people are not receptive and open like valleys.

I accept pretty much everything from other people. I can’t think of a single person I’ve ever cut off from my life. Even when people would tell me I should, I usually haven’t. I try very hard to understand as best I can, and if I can’t I try to accept anyway. I haven’t developed any real fears of other people.

But I am a pretty good judge of character, for the most part. I don’t actively pursue relationships, and have few close friends right now because of that. I prefer to let people come to me. So I guess my particular valley isn’t a very frequently traveled one. But this doesn’t really bother me. I am usually as content by myself as with others around, sometimes more so.

Be open and receptive, and let things and people come to me. That I can do. Not consider anything or anyone beneath me. I try to be that way. Be content to just let things flow? That is harder. I can push too hard at times, and push things and people away. I think I need to work most on just being receptive, and not pushing back. So that’s what I will focus on for now.

It’s time to be low and open.

Art and Soul

I had a wonderful weekend in Pasadena at an artists convention, taking art classes from various professional artist, as well as some classes that were just plain fun (like doing Japanese style raku with polymer clay). It was great to get away and just enjoy doing some art and learning so many new techniques.

Hopefully over the next few days I’ll get back to studying Tao and posting my reflections again. It gives me a lot more peace and serenity than worrying about the elections, even if people don’t bother to read them or comment. I think this place is more of my personal journaling than anything else, anyway. It’s a bit weird to do it in a public place, I suppose, but I enjoy it, and that’s what matters. I find I don’t typically enjoy journal writing as much, perhaps expecting too much of myself to write every day, perhaps just the actual act of writing being so much more difficult for me than just typing. Here, I can post whatever pops into my head easily.

So with two weeks before the election, I am dreading the October surprise. I know it’s coming, it’s all just a matter of when and what. And whether it leads to four more years of hell, or if we as a people will manage to pull our democracy out of its flaming ashes or not. I’m so tired of Republican horseshit. I wish everyone else was sick of it as well. Maybe it takes an even deeper descent into fascism to get peple to wake the hell up.

At least my 18 year old is voting, and adding his voice to this election. I hope the younger voters will be able to get through the boomer deadlock of left and right and get the country moving forward again. To me the disaster of the last four years is so obvious that I can’t even imagine how the hell anyone can support Bush. But then, I’m a proud member of the reality-based community, as the bloggers are all saying this week. (Well, the bloggers I read).

At least San Diego has gotten its first rain in six months, several days worth of good soaking rains. The garden is so clean and seems so happy. I can’t wait to get out and toss down some wildflower seeds and get the flowers of next spring off to a good start. I planted a fall garden that is coming in beautifully.So there is much to be thankful for as we come into the season of Thanksgiving. Even if things go badly in the election and we have to endure four more years, life will continue, the garden will grow, and the world will take little notice of us in the long run. We will survive, and we will recover, even if we are in for a long season of decline.

So, a bit of Tao for tonight:

Answer quickly. Do you have a soul?
That is the critical question. And you need to look deeply into that question, because the answer will determine your entire attitude toward the spiritual.

If you say you are the soul, then where is it? If you are it, then why is the soul invisible?

If you say that the soul is inside you, then bring it out. You say you cannot? Then by saying that, you have already indicated the soul.

If you say that the soul belongs to you, then you have confused things.

If you say that the soul is immortal, then you have not looked far enough into the situation. The soul may be immortal, but why is it immortal? Answer that and you will be very close to profoundity.

If you want to know where the soul is, ask yourself who is considering the question.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

It seems strange that the people I have most regretted losing from my life told me they didn’t believe they had souls.

Perhaps, they were right.

Nation

Guo. Nation, country. The square around the perimeter of the symbol for guo represents the borders of the country. Inside is the word for “land”: the small square is a mouth, and the line below multiplies that symbol to mean “all people”. On the right is a weapon for defense.

The very idea of a nation is built on exclusion and defense.

The young and ignorant never seem to tire of fighting. A child fights when a toy is taken from him. A youth joins a gang and fights for streets that never ultimately belong to him. A fascist is swayed by doctrines of superiority and attacks foreigners. A rebel is moved by talks of nationalism and works to overturn a government. A racist supports the idea of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The tragedy of all of these attitudes is that they confuse loyalty with chauvinism. As we are growing up, our elders exhort us: be proud of your culture, protect your country, chapmion the cause of your ideals. When these ideals are expressed with loyalty, the result is often great deeds of heroism and creativity. When these ideals degenerate into chauvinism, the terrible excesses of racism, brutality, and extermination emerge.

One who follows Tao eventually realizes the futility of racial and national divisions. This takes a very long time, because so much of our learning is subtly influenced by these ideas. Indeed, some might say thata these social features are rooted in our very emotional makeup. But being a follower of Tao has never been about doing what society says. Being a follower of Tao means walking the spiritual path. And the ideas of race and nationalism cannot be valid on a path that goes through a land with no borders.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

I think the current national mood of Bush supporters definitely trends towards chauvinism. His supporters refuse to see the clear examples of when Bush is simply wrong. They don’t realize that they have stepped even beyond nationalism and into chauvinism.

My own loyalties are to the real ideals of this country – freedom, liberty, justice, and opportunity for all people who live here. But my thoughts have moved beyond national borders. I recognize that we need to work with other countries and create better opportunities and living conditions for all people. It isn’t right that with only 5% of the population of the world, we use 25% of its resources. That is simply unsustainable. The current situation in Iraq is about oil, plain and simple, and who will control it. It leads us into conflict not only with the Iraqi people, but with all of the middle east, and will be a losing battle. The only real solution is to cut down on the amount of oil we use, and this administration will not move in that direction. We are simply lost until there is a change in the administration, and will keep moving under Bush in an unstable, unsustainable direction that only leads to more conflict and greater strife, more military deaths and civilian deaths in other countries, more terrorism.

But so many simply will not see the reality. They pretend that America is so great we can do whatever we want, not seeing this is how past empires were led to ruin. It is only in working with other nations that we can sustain our own nation without massive conflict.

Americans do not know the tragedy of war. They haven’t seen their families and homes destroyed. We haven’t had real war in this country since the civil war, and it isn’t in our current memory. Some individuals know the pain of war, but for most of us, we are like Bush, who see it on the TV screens and “know how hard it is”. But, like him, we don’t have the real experience of war and the violent shift it brings into people’s lives.

I read a joke about undecided voters – undecided if Bush is back in office whether they will move to Canada or Mexico. That is sort of how I feel. I don’t even know if I will be able to stay in this country with my boys if Bush is back in office and institutes a draft. I could not have my children fight for this administration and its wars for oil.

I try to know this will all pass, as Mark Morford reminds us in his column today. But the changes it will bring to my life, to this country, in the meantime, are hard to take. I don’t like where we are, I don’t like how we are seen by the world. I’ve cast my vote already (by mail) and that is all I can do. Now it’s all over for me but the waiting and watching and hoping for the best.

Me

Wo. I, me. The symbol for wo is a person holding a spear. The very idea of the self implies conflict and defense. Who holds the spear, and what is the original nature of that person?

As soon as someone comes too close to us, we loudly shout for them to get away. If they don’t, we pick up our spear to drive them off.

After the conflict, what do we do? We tensely mull over our fright and indignation and prepare for greater conflicts. When they come back, we say, “I’ll show them.”

The sages would ask us what we have to be so defensive about. If we were truly to inquire into the nature of things, we would see that there is nothing we can truly lose, so there is nothing we need to defend. What they mean is that the self is only something we to as a convenient and pragmatic way of thinking, but it is not a reality.

What is the reality of the self?

Inquire on one level, and you will see we are all gods.

Inquire more deeply, and you will see that we are all spirit.

Inquire more deeply, and you will see that we are all Tao.

Inquire deepest of all, and you will see that Tao is the void.

And what need is there to pick up a spear and try to defend the void?

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

I’ve pretty much closed myself off from other people lately. It’s mostly because I’m tired of trusting in people and then being hurt when they close me out. I get to know someone so well and put my trust in them, and then they cut me off and refuse to talk to me. With those I am still close to, I just don’t want to extend the relationships further anymore. I am comfortable in myself where I am right now, but connecting with others and trusting them opens me up to being vulnerable to that hurt of being cut off again, and I just don’t want to go through that anymore.

Perhaps what I fear is still really the void. I can accept being a part of Tao, a part of the void, and yet actually experiencing the void itself is still something I don’t want to do. Feeling the void in my own life left by the absence of others from it has been painful, and I can’t yet separate that pain from the void. I know ultimately that I need to detach from the pain but I’m not really ready to do that. I don’t feel it most of the time, but when I think of the people who have gone missing from my life, it is still painful.

Perhaps I need to feel that I haven’t really lost them. I have my memories, I have my experience of them, and I realize there wasn’t really much more I could have gotten from those people. When I think about them, I realize I knew them so well, I had learned all I couild have from them, and knew how they would act and be in most situations. And now I know that in the worst of times, they would not have supported me, because they did not.

And do I really need such people in my life? Probably not.

So what is there really to fear?