Monthly Archives: December 2005

Continuation


Wheel of Life, Suan Mokkh

Upon completion comes fulfillment.
With fulfillment comes liberation.
Liberation allows you to go on.
Even death is not a true ending.
Life is infinite continuation.

Always finish what you start. That alone is discipline and wisdom enough. If you can follow that rule, then you will be superior to most people.

When you come to the end of a cycle, a new one will begin. You might say that completion actually begins somewhere in the middle of a cycle and that new beginnings are engendered out of previous actions.

Completing a cycle means fulfillment. It means that you have achieved self-knowledge, discipline, and a new way of understanding yourself and the world around you. You cannot stop there, of course. New horizons are always there. But you can reach out for those new vistas with fresh assurance and wisdom.

With each turn of the wheel you go further. With each turn of the wheel you free yourself from the mire of ignorance. With each turn of the wheel comes continuation.

Turn the wheel of your life. Make complete revolutions. Celebrate every turning. And persevere with joy.
Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“Love is only the dirty trick played on us to achieve continuation of the species.”
— William Somerset Maugham

“War is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means.” — Karl von Clausewitz

Art is the continuation of politics by different means. — Svetlana and Igor Kopystiansky

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” — Thich Nhat Hanh

May you have a very happy (and safe!) New Year’s Eve celebration, and a joyous New Year. Namaste…

Ending

A shadow edge is never on the edge.
The time to contemplate the ending is before the ending.

Five days left to this year. There will be an ending. And there will be a new beginning. That is Tao.

If you look at a vase by a window and examine what makes it appear round, you will see a shadow on it. That is the shadow edge. It is the darkest shadow on that face. It is never on the edge : The main light source strikes the vase on one side, and reflected light comes from the other.

In the same way that the shadow edge, which establishes the roundness of an object to our eyes, is never at the edge, so too should we consider limits and endings before we reach them. We cannot do without limits and endings. They bring definition to our endeavors. But if we are to use them to our advantage, we have to plan how to meet them. For those who follow Tao, those who can accommodate endings gracefully are among the most admired.

In the past, emperors, scholars, holy people, or others who were fully in touch with themselves could know the moment of their deaths. While they were still vital, they wrote farewell poems. Such people knew how to consider endings before they reached them. Therefore, there were no regrets or lingering ramifications once they passed. The purity of the next cycle was ensured.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Stand before it and there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the ancient Tao, move with the present.
— Tao Te Ching, 14

People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care to the end as to the beginning;
Then there will be no failure.
— Tao Te Ching, 64

“Your journey never ends. Life has a way of changing things in incredible ways.” — Alexander Volkov

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started… and know the place for the first time.” — T.S. Eliot

The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning. ~Ivy Baker Priest

Ends and beginnings – there are no such things.
There are only middles.
~Robert Frost, Mountain Interval, “In the Home Stretch”

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. ~Gilda Radner

The end of the year in the northern hemisphere is all about shadows – the shadows beginning to shortenen again as the sun starts to climb once again into the sky. We know the days are short and cool, but will soon get longer and warmer. We use the New Year as a time of beginning, starting new things, but really, we rarely think much about the ending of the old year, other than to have a party.

Perhaps, instead of thinknig of resolutions for the New Year, we ought to think about what we would like to end with the old year. What can we toss out, get rid of, to make space in our lives for new things? What can we leave behind without sadness or regret?

For me, I leave behind my year of Tao postings based on 365 Tao. It’s been great having a daily source of inspiration, and I’m amazed I’ve actually done it for a whole year. For the next cycle, I’m learning about art journaling, planning to experiment with a watercolor art journal that I hope to post here daily. I have a new digital camera, a new set of watercolors, and just need to pick out a journal or journaling form. I’ve thought about doing watercolor post cards, and then making them available to mail to whoever would like them. It will be interesting to see what form this journaling actually takes.

Thanks for sharing this part of my journey. It is not ending, but it is changing form a bit. Thanks for reading, your comments, and your ispirations, those of you with your own blogs. I love reading other people’s thoughts and ideas, as you can tell from my own extensive blogroll.

New calendars are up, Chinese brush painting calendars! I’ll pull out my Chinese art brushes finally, my watercolors, and get myself to paint as often as I can. Should be fun.

Namaste!

Collective

Ancient societies were tribal;
The group did the thinking.
Current society is splintered;
The individual must be complex.

People from old traditions were often less complicated because they had the advantage of a complete culture that did the thinking for them. Everyone had a role that fit the whole. Individuals could concentrate on fulfilling their place, confident that the other needs would be met by the collective.

The specialization of modern times calls for individual roles that do not necessarily form a whole. We often lose sight even of what the whole is. We have commentators, we have critics, but we do not have leaders. We celebrate egalitarianism and consensus, but it is phony : a chaos of voices rather than a democracy; a populace of individuals pursuing their own ends rather than a collective.

The burden thus falls on the individual to fulfill a tremendous range of functions. We have to make more choices, be more informed, act in a wide variety of areas. We cannot simply concentrate on doing our part, because now our part is to compete with everyone else.

Spirituality is more difficult today. In the past, you could become a spiritual aspirant and the people would support you; a holy person was just as much a part of the collective as a farmer. Now, to be a holy aspirant you have to look for your own job and find new ways through a society that barely recognizes the spiritual.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“Albrecht’s Law – Intelligent people, when assembled into an organization, will tend toward collective stupidity.” — Karl Albrecht

“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” — Bertrand Russell

“The great creative individual. . . is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be.”
— John Stuart Mill

“What is reality, anyway? Just a collective hunch”
— Lily Tomlin

“Although we human beings have our own personal life, we are yet in large measure the representatives, the victims and promoters of a collective spirit whose years are counted in centuries. We can well think all our lives long that we are following our own noses, and may never discover that we are, for the most part, supernumeraries on the stage of the world theatre.” — Carl Gustav Jung

To all of us who play the spirit of Christmas tonight – blessings to you. May those who find your gifts tomorrow be full of joy and wonder. My 20 and 16 year old are going to wake up to gifts wrapped in Hello Kitty and Care Bear paper. Heh.

Attachment


The Monk and the Nun, Cornelius Van Haarlem

The monk shaved his head as a symbol of renunciation.
But now he goes nowhere without his little cap.

It’s funny to see someone who says that he is a renunciate call childishly for his few meager possessions. Why renounce the world when you really cannot? Before you cut your hair, ask yourself if you can afford to give up your attachments. Before you give up your freedom, ask yourself if you can submit to monastic order. Before you say that you are spiritual, ask yourself if you can give up worldly desires.

I am not trying to make fun of monks here. I am observing that every path in life has its own sacrifices and its own hardships. Before you embark on a path, search yourself thoroughly and investigate the path completely. Then you will dispel misgivings. You will also reduce the chance of hypocrisy.

Whoever you are, live your life completely. If you are a plumber, be the best plumber. If you are a saint, be the best saint. If you are common, be common. If you are extraordinary, be extraordinary. People only err when they try to be who they are not.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“Attachment to spiritual things is.. just as much an attachment as inordinate love of anything else.”
— Beverly Sills

I’m always rather suspicious of religions that call for us to give up our attachments to the real world. If there is anything that we ought to give up our attachment to, it’s the idea that there is something more important than the real world, since the real world is what in fact actually created us, and we certainly wouldn’t be here without it. I’m equally suspicious of religions that call for us to give up sex, for much the same reason. If you can’t embrace your sexuality, whatever form it takes, and you can’t embrace the real world, there is little reason left to be around.

Sure, it’s not a good idea to get so attached to something that it becomes an addiction or sickness, or to get attached too much to our material possessions, since then they become more important than our relationships to others and to our spirituality. But being too attached to spirituality is just as bad as being too attached to anything else. I had a lot of difficulty as a kid with my mom giving toys I still liked to the church, and I really resented it. She also would rarely come and visit after I moved away, because she didn’t want to miss her church activities, even though she would travel for church-related meetings. I don’t think spirituality should be a cause of resentment, either for yourself or those around you. If spirituality is truly the only thing that is important to you, then sure go be a monk or nun or priest or whatever – but then, don’t be hypocritical about it.

Solstice


Winter Solstice, Brigitte Lopez

A homeless man dies in the gutter.
A tree cracks in the cold:
A shocking sound.

At the winter solstice, the day is shortest of all and night is longest. It can also be the time of bitter cold. The wind blows with a frigid ferocity, cutting all before it. Snow and ice became deadly. Those who are homeless die of exposure. Even the mightiest of trees can split from the drop in temperature.

The sound of a tree snapping is a sudden slap.

The horrors, the tragedies that this nadir brings! Winter tortures the world with icy whips, and those who are weak are ground beneath its glacial heels. Sometimes, we dare not even lament those who die in the onslaught of winter, in fear that the tears will freeze upon our faces. But we see, and hear. Huddling closer to the fire, we vow to survive.

No matter how affected we are by misfortune, we must remember that this is the lowest turn of the wheel. Things cannot forever go downward. There are limits to everything — even the cold, and the darkness, and the wind, and the dying.

They call this the first day of winter, but actually it is the beginning of winter’s death. From this day on, we can look forward to warming and brightening.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer” — Albert Camus

“Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and blossom, but we hope it, we know it.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the
landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.
– Andrew Wyeth

Of winter’s lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer’s secret
Deep down within its heart.
— Charles G. Stater

There aren’t many signs of winter yet here in SoCal – the roses are still blooming a bit, the sun is shining, if very far to the south, the grass is green and while many of the trees have lost their leaves, there are no breaking branches. We enjoy living here, where it is rarely very cold and usually the weather is simply wonderful. There is a joke about San Diego that you get “paid in sunshine”. There must be a lot of really well-paid people here to afford these houses, though.

But there are a dozen birds outside my window fighting over the feeder, so food supplies must be running a bit scarce for the birds. There are few insects around for them to eat. The nights are chilled enough to frost the leaves on many of the plants. And I certainly am feeling seasonally lazy, not wanting to do much other than curl up with a book or something.

I used to dread winter’s short days and get seasonal affect disorder, but now I don’t seem to suffer much at all in winter. Sometimes I get annoyed that it’s cold and gray and I can’t be out in the garden, but the garden is sleeping for the most part anyway and there isn’t much to be done. So it all works out.

But my family has suffered the tragedy of winter this year. My cousin’s wife was killed on Thanksgiving day while driving in white out conditions in Michigan. They were broadsided by a pickup truck, and she died instantly. I also lost an aunt December 6th, to the winter of her life. She did not have the strength for the heart surgery that might have saved her. So we have our losses. But we carry on, and will be glad once again for the return of spring.