Monthly Archives: July 2005

Absolute

They say, “You are god.”
But everyone is.
They say, “All is god.”
Then why are there differences?
They say, “All is an illusion.”
But does that include god?

Those who follow Tao declare that there is no evidence that a god created our world. They have not found any empirical proof, and they cannot accept the idea philosophically. They reason that god must be absolute and this means oneness, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. Naturally, anything separate and distinct would not satisfy this criteria. If there was a god and a world that god created, then there would be two things — and god could not then be considered absolute. If there were an absolute god, there could not be anything separate from god.

Everything is god. We are also god. However, we fail to realize this. Why? Because we look for god outside of ourselves. We make the mistake of taking ourselves as the viewer and then seek god as the object of our examinations. Unfortunately, everything we perceive is tainted by our subjectivity, and anything that we define as god “out there” cannot be god because it is not absolute. All you’ve found is something that exists in relation to your perceptions.

You are god. The only way to confirm this is to remove the barrier of subjectivity that prevents you from realizing your essential oneness with all things.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery….
— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 1

“When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality” — Henry David Thoreau

“From the viewpoint of absolute truth, what we feel and experience in our ordinary daily life is all delusion.” — Dalai Lama

“This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and the Absolute is the great mystic achievement. In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed.”
— William James

“I personally gave up the Absolute . . . I fully believe in taking moral holidays.”
— William James

It’s very difficult to separate your perceptions from what is all around you – how can you sense the world but through your perceptions of it? But there isn’t any real reason to do this. If god is everywhere, and within us as well, then we are already perceiving god. Just realize that whatever anyone else is perceiving is equally valid. If you don’t exclude anything, then you get closer to the idea of One. Perhaps we are all of us simply here to provide those multiple perceptions and viewpoints, and share them and interact with the world around us. Letting down our barriers to each other once in a while would be a good start to seeing god, then.

Variation

Never jump out of the same hole twice.

We all yearn for success. Not just the success of money, prestige, or power — the simple success of having things work. If you have a hobby like gardening, you love to see your flowers respond to your care. If you are in school, you want to master your courses. If you are a scientist, you look for results from your experiments. All of us want to be successful.

But once you hit on something that does work, it takes great courage to keep going beyond your limits. This is especially obvious in creative fields such as art, music, and writing. It is hard to reach an appreciative audience; once you find something that works, it is hard to let go of it. You keep doing the same thing, like musicians who make a career of performing the same tune. But no matter what your field of endeavor, you mustn’t do that. Don’t jump out of the same hole twice. You may not be as materially successful, but you will be more successful on a larger level.

Spirituality is creativity. Only with creativity can you have the power to follow Tao. Only with creativity can you remold your personality into a spiritual vehicle. Only with a great breadth of variation can you follow the constantly changing Tao. Therefore, when following Tao, don’t cling to methods and dogma. Be spontaneous.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“Every hour of the day and night, and every acre of the earth and shore, and every point or patch of the sea and sky, is full of pictures” — Walt Whitman

“Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, all must be tasted.”
– Chinese Proverb

“It is good to vary in order that you may frustrate the curious, especially those who envy you.”
– Baltasar Gracian, The Oracle

“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavour.” — William Cowper

“Variety is the spice of life – one day ignore people, next day annoy them” — My refrigerator magnet

“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”
– John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“Of all the varieties of virtues, liberalism is the most beloved.” — Aristotle

“In the time of your life, live – so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite variety and mystery of it.” — William Saroyan

“The finest souls are those that have the most variety and suppleness” — Michel de Montaigne

Ah, this speaks to my heart today! Yes, the engineer in me is always wanting things to work, and dealing with the variety of ways in which things don’t work.

The gardener in me loves the success of my garden, yet also thrills to the variety of plants – nothing thrills me more than to discover a new variety of a plant I love. At one point I had over sixty sages in my garden, out of around, oh, six thousand or so varieties. The singer in me quit music theatre when she realized that getting ahead in the music theatre business was not about enjoying singing the wondrous variety of music out there, but becoming very good at one particular kind (no, I really didn’t want to be an opera singer! Not to mention that it was all about sucking up to the right people… ) The artist in me loves to create new work, thrilling to the variety of colors and media and ways of expressing myself. I am far more likely to be exploring a new way of painting than to be perfecting the work I do, since my art is about self-expression and not commercial value. I’m not a good artist, but I am one, in spite of that. The writer in me loves creating this variety of postings on various topics, which change as my interests change. For now, the Tao inspires me, and politics, as it once inspired Whitman, but later on it will be something else. You need only to look at my blogroll to get a small sense of the various things that interest me. My days are all varied – I spend a lot of time on the web, but always looking at something different, looking *for* something different – a new opinion, a new writer, a new spark that catches my eye and makes me go “ah!” – you think differently! Let’s talk about it! ”

Nature is so full of variety, and we are all so different, so unique – that is what is most wonderful to me about people. The people who attract me are those who know they are unique and special, who celebrate themselves and their uniqueness, or, at times, those who fail to appreciate the wonderful qualities they have, and I try to do that for them – to let them know how unique and wonderful and special they are and why I love them for it. And sometimes, I take that too far and push them too hard to explore what great people they are, and they walk away. It has left me sad, it has left me crazy at times, but it never ever dimmed my love for them or my appreciation for their wonderful variety, their way of being human.

I hate it when people just want to fit in, to be part of the group, to not stand out. Especially in children. I deplore how our schools drive out their uniqueness, their wonderful talents and abilities and convince them they aren’t good at anything. (Like my above comment on not being a good artist). I want my kids to know they are unique and special, I thrill when my son sticks a “Normal People Worry Me” sticker on his door or says “Thank You!” when I call him weird. They love being “nerds”, being “leet”, feeling special in their own wonderful way.

And I guess a lot of this comes from growing up in America, for which I am thankful. I’ve heard Europeans comment on how we always stand out overseas, by our confidence, sometimes our arrogance, our conviction in ourselves. And I love that. If there is one thing that is great about America that is it. And I deplore those who want to drive it out, who want to make us all Christian Nation This or Moral Majority That. As Whitman so wonderfully pointed out, the glory of America is in its diversity, in its ability to bring out the best in everyone. And sadly, we are losing that. Our public schools train us to be worker bees as the private schools train theirs to be owners, instead of giving us all the same shot. (And the Christian Right schools train their kids to be congressional aids and campaign workers).

People don’t think they matter anymore, they don’t believe that they as individuals count for anything. They move to be part of the “winning team”, and let the Republicans roll over their rights, their jobs, their very livelihood while enriching the pockets of the wealthy, and they convince themselves that this is ok, that the top dogs deserve the steak while they end up with the bone. It’s because they have lost that wonderful quality that says, “I’m unique”. Liberals have a tough time organizing because they all recognize their own individuality. But in coming together as individuals, we can bring out the very best in all of us. This is what we all need to understand, to “get”, to learn how to “frame” – that what is great about America is that we are all the child of the one country that encourages us to be ourselves, no matter what, to say what we will, no matter what, that we have inalienable rights.

Let’s pursue our happiness, already, dammit.

Evolution


Rubens, The Union of Earth and Water

Organic molecules from cosmic clouds,
Millions of years in the midst of eternity.
We sprang from the primordial;
Our spirituality came in the evolution.

There is strong evidence that human beings evolved from basic early molecules. Those molecules were formed from the gases and birth processes of the stars and planets. Those stars and planets were in turn formed by the first movement of the universe. That first moment of the universe came from nothingness. So we are on the crest of a certain wave of evolution.

Narrowing it down to the human situation from the cosmic, our minds represent the ultimate expression of who we are. Further, spirituality is the ultimate expression of the mind. One might say, therefore, that spirituality is not a belief, mental construct, or opinion. Rather, it can be considered a function or outgrowth of evolution.

If spirituality is simply a function of life, the edge of a cosmic ripple, then where is it going? We don’t know. Like the universe, it is still expanding into unknown territory. We can decide to cooperate and go with that wave, or we can ignore our spirituality and thereby ignore one of the basic meanings of being human. If we choose to engage in the full process of being human, then we will truly fulfill our part in the universe’s evolution.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.” — Albert Einstein

“I was taught that the human brain was the crowning glory of evolution so far, but I think it’s a very poor scheme for survival.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“You have the need and the right to spend part of your life caring for your soul. It is not easy. You have to resist the demands of the work-oriented, often defensive, element in your psyche that measures life only in terms of output — how much you produce — not in terms of the quality of your life experiences. To be a soulful person means to go against all the pervasive, prove-yourself values of our culture and instead treasure what is unique and internal and valuable in yourself and your own personal evolution.” — Jean Shinoda Bolen

I blogroll and read a number of evolution and science blogs – The Panda’s Thumb, Pharyngula, Science and Politics, Cosmic Variance, 3quarksdaily, and Cognitive Daily. I always enjoy reading good science writing. Being an engineer by trade, I do have a fairly scientific mind, after all. But more than that, science is a part of understanding how the world works. To me it is very linked into my own personal growth and development, and into my understanding of my own spirituality. One area that has fascinated me lastely is the study of the amygdala, the part of the brain that seems to be related to religion and spirituality, as well as emotion.

My own spirituality has followed a pretty Taoist path – I grew up in the Presbyterian church, studied that religion pretty thoroughly and enjoyed its music and traditions, but always felt it separate from my spirituality itself. I read a lot of mythology as a kid so I knew a lot of the mythological stories as well. In high school I read about a number of different religions, noting the common threads and adopting those for my own ethical and moral code. Then later on I found Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth and Hero with a Thousand Faces, and read more about psychology and religion, and realized all of this was about the personal growth of the mind and how it progresses. And after all of this, finding the simplicity of the 81 verses of the Tao contained most of all these things in the simplest form, I find myself walking the Taoist path, shedding mythology and religion and most of the baggage, but keeping the essence of what is truest in them all. Now I just try to lose something every day.

Today’s baggage seems to be mainly ego related. My son has a way of getting to me that no one else does, a trait of 19 year olds, I suppose. When he says he finds me a pain in the ass, it bothers me a lot. I know I must seem a nag to him, reminding him to do his schoolwork and plan his fall schedule. It is hard for me, since I was always so self-motivated at his age and he seems to lack so much drive himself. I know he has to find his own way, but it is tough to watch him struggle with things that for me were fairly direct and easy. I also have a way of teasing that gets annoying at times. So I understand his comment, but it does hurt when I am in a vulnerable place. But he just called on his way home from school and asked if we could go to lunch, so I guess it isn’t all that bad.

About the picture – this is part of my artistic evolution, which really goes back to taking Pamela Underwood’s body writing workshop. This was one of the pictures I chose that most affected me and resembles my own body image as a Rubenesque female. I actually painted in the critter on the left side into one of my works. These days, I lack a space to do art and the privacy to do it, and that is one of the things that is most bothering me. I really want to get back to it but seem to find myself addicted to this darn computer and blogs instead. The materials are at hand and I want to do it, but time and available space seem such an obstacle.

I guess this has rambled a bit today, which is unusual for my Tao postings, but I seem to feel very scattered today. Perhaps in my spiritual evolution, today is one of those days when things unravel a bit, the DNA splitting as it were, so things can come together in a new combination and lead to some new creation.

Scorn


Allegory of Love, II (‘Scorn’), Paolo Veronese

Why do you scorn others?
Can it be that you are that proud?
No matter how accomplished you are,
There are people ahead of you and behind you.
All beings on the path,
All victims of the same existence,
All with body, mind, and spirit.
No one is better than the next person.
Help others for all the times that you have been ignored.
Be kind to others, for all the times that you have been scorned.

The journey of humanity is the journey from ignorance to enlightenment.

It’s like an endless march of souls through eternity. If you are standing in an infinitely long line of souls, how can you say that your position is superior to others? When there is no head and no end to the line, it doesn’t matter what place you hold. Therefore it is foolish to look down on those standing behind. They now occupy the place where you once stood. Instead of pride, you should feel compassion. If you cannot remember this, then just think of all the people ahead of you. You aspire to their place, and you should work diligently.

There is injustice in this world, yes. But there is no need to add to it. When you see someone less fortunate than you, express compassion. When you see someone more advanced than you, try to learn from them. Any other feelings are superfluous.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“Heav’n has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d” — William Congreve

“In the beginning of a change, the Patriot is a scarce man, Brave, Hated, and Scorned. When his cause succeeds however,the timid join him, For then it costs nothing to be a Patriot.” — Mark Twain

“I feel your scorn and I accept it.” — Jon Stewart

“A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide” — Samuel Butler

“I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them” — Baruch Spinoza

Hmm. I’m trying to think if I have ever scorned anyone for being less enlightened. I certainly don’t scorn those less fortunate, or less sane (anymore…) Scorn seems to be one of those things I reserve more for the acts of others rather than the people themselves. There are certainly actions of others that I scorn, like driving around in SUVs and then complaining about the price of gas, or getting into the express lane with a full cart, or being president and screwing up the entire country, or governor and screwing up the state — things that are inconsiderate, in general. People being inconsiderate of others really pisses me off. But I try to keep that kind of scorn separated from the person themselves, when possible.

I’ve certainly been on the down side of scorn. Cut off from people I thought loved and cared about me because they decided I wasn’t worth their time anymore. That hurt, and basically drove me crazy (yes, really — please, don’t ever stop talking to someone that really needs you).
So, I try really really hard not to do that to other people, knowing where it can lead. And yes, it has led to a general increase in my kindness for others. I do still tend to get ignored a lot, but it doesn’t bother me so much anymore. I do work hard to be there for others when they need me, since I know what its like to not have someone there for you that you really, really needed.

I think scorn is easy for people to feel when they have no idea what it is like to actually be less fortunate, or to be looked down upon themselves. Of course some do it because even though they are looked down upon, it keeps their own place in the hierarchy intact by assuring them others are lower than they are. Others do it because it assures them that they are somehow more moral than others, and therefore “closer to God”. As if the gods are not indeed out there walking among the lowest of the low…. This human compulsion to create hierarchies and orders of people is probably one of our less endearing traits, overall.

Change

This is how the human being can change:

there’s a worm addicted to eating grape leaves.

Suddenly,
he wakes up, call it grace, whatever,

something wakes him, and he’s no longer just a worm.

He’s
the entire vineyard,

and the orchard too,

the fruit, the trunks, a growing wisdom and joy

that doesn’t need to devour.

Change from Within — Jalaluddin Rumi

Mu Guiyang, Chinese Woman Warrior

“Her swinging sword flashes like nine falling suns shot by Yet the legendary bowman; she moves with the force of a team of Dragons driven by the gods through the sky; her strokes and attacks are like those of terrible thunder; and when she stops all is still as water reflecting the clear moonlight.” — Tu Fu, “Viewing a Student of Madame Kung Sun”

Untitled Document

Mu Guiying assumed the command without hesitation. Like a veteran general, she was composed and confident, calling the muster roll of officers and assigning them to different tasks. She taught and then ordered them to break the different moves of the formation one by one by the counter measures she knew. She did not forget to send a surprise detachment to cut off the enemy’s supply line by burning all their food and fodder to ashes. Lack of fodder, the Liao cavalry, the major component of their army, would be rendered useless. Without food, an army of tens of thousands strong could not sustain a protracted war out of its base. As for the base, the City of Youzhou lost to the Great Liao in a previous battle, she ordered a third army to recapture it and thereby ridding the Liao of its bridgehead to invade Song.

Then the Song army engaged the enemy in the final battle and won. Guiying, with her talent and gallantry, also won the hearts of her elders and her peers. Upon their triumphant return, the emperor greeted Guiying as well as the courageous men and women of the Yang Family in person, and conferred titles they well deserved. His majesty also gave Zongbao and Guiying a grand wedding.

The story has been told and retold in fictions and operas alike and known to the Chinese old and young. Of the many episodes the most popular have been “Mu Guiying Assuming Command” and “Yanzhao to Execute His Son.”

Sad Statistics…

  • The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds. The average American woman is 5’4″ tall, weighs 140 pounds, and wears a size 14.
  • Americans spend more than $40 billion a year on dieting and diet-related products. That’s roughly equivalent to the amount the U.S. federal goverment spends on education every year.
  • 80 percent of American 10 year old girls are dieting.
  • 89 percent of American women are dissatisfied with their bodies.
  • 72 percent of American women polled wish they had “better” thighs.
  • American women spend $100 million a year on thigh-reducing products.
  • 8.7 million plastic surgeries were performed in 2003, up 32 percent from 2002. 26 percent of those surgeries were performed on people between the ages of 19 and 34.
  • From “If Women Ruled the World

    Invisibility

    Slave Market with the Appartion of the Invisible Bust of Voltaire, Salvadore Dali

    Invisibility is the best advantage.
    But if forced to a confrontation,
    Come out with all your skill.

    There was once a roadside vendor who sold rheumatism formulas to the passersby. He was a cheery old man who was faithfully at his spot for years. One day a young bully began to harass the vendor. The old man tried very hard to avoid the confrontation, but eventually the bully became convinced that he had a coward to abuse as he pleased. When the moment of attack came, the old man defeated him with superior boxing skills. Significantly, the old man was never seen again. He had manifested his superiority at a critical moment, but once he had exposed himself, he disappeared.

    In this competitive world, it is best to be invisible. Go through life without showing off, attracting attention to yourself, or making flamboyant gestures. These will only attract the hostility of others. The wise accomplish all that they want without arousing the envy or scorn of others. They make achievements only for the sake of fulfilling their inner yearnings.

    Yet it is inevitable that you will have to prove yourself at one time or another. When that is necessary, then you must marshal all your skills and do your very best. Prove yourself when it is demanded, and when you must prove yourself, be superior. At that moment, it is no time to talk of philosophy and humility. Act. Do. Then fade back into invisibility.

    Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

    Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
    It is the center hole that makes it useful.
    Shape clay into a vessel;
    It is the space within that makes it useful.
    Cut doors and windows for a room;
    It is the holes which make it useful.
    Therefore profit comes from what is there;
    Usefulness from what is not there.
    — Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 11

    Look, it cannot be seen – it is beyond form.
    Listen, it cannot be heard – it is beyond sound.
    Grasp, it cannot be held – it is intangible.
    These three are indefinable;
    Therefore they are joined in one.
    From above it is not bright;
    From below it is not dark:
    An unbroken thread beyond description.
    It returns to nothingness.
    The form of the formless, the image of the imageless, it is called indefinable and beyond imagination.
    Stand before it and there is no beginning.
    Follow it and there is no end.
    Stay with the ancient Tao, move with the present.
    Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.
    — Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 14

    Those who know do not talk.
    Those who talk do not know.
    Keep your mouth closed.
    Guard your senses.
    Temper your sharpness.
    Simplify your problems.
    Mask your brightness.
    Be at one with the dust of the earth.
    This is primal union.
    He who has achieved this state
    is unconcerned with friends and enemies,
    with good and harm, with honour and disgrace.
    This therefore is the highest state of man.
    — Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 56

    Tao is invisible, and yet it is everywhere. We don’t see it so much as we feel its presence andd see its results. In our lives, we notice the people who talk the most, who try to get all the attention, the ones who focus on their looks or have the bubbly personalities or those who make a scene.

    But if we look for the people who really make things work, who are there for us when we most need them, and not just to return a favor but when there are no favors to be returned, we will find them most often sitting quietly to the side, waiting for when they are needed to act. And when we ask something of those people, they will be there for us, more reliable than those who are full of talk or bright and bubbly or causing a scene.

    Don’t exclude the quiet people from your life who seem so invisible. They will be your confidant, the one who keeps your secrets and doesn’t gossip about you, the one who is there in your most desperate hour when there is no one else you can share your secrets with. They will be the one who loves you and tells you there is hope for a different life than the one that makes you feel so bitter and angry and cynical. They will be the one who loans you money when you need it most, the one who helps you move when no one else is around, the one who indulges you when you most need it. They will be the one who is there for you when you feel there is no chance someone will find you attractive and desirable again.

    Invisible? No, not really. Only to those who shut them out of their lives.