Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Tao of forgiveness

sacks
The Bearers of the Burden, Van Gogh

Taoism.net / TrueTao.org

One day, the sage gave the disciple an empty sack and a basket of potatoes. “Think of all the people who have done or said something against you in the recent past, especially those you cannot forgive. For each of them, inscribe the name on a potato and put it in the sack.”

The disciple came up quite a few names, and soon his sack was heavy with potatoes.

“Carry the sack with you wherever you go for a week,” said the sage. “We’ll talk after that.”

At first, the disciple thought nothing of it. Carrying the sack was not particularly difficult. But after a while, it became more of a burden. It sometimes got in the way, and it seemed to require more effort to carry as time went on, even though its weight remained the same.

After a few days, the sack began to smell. The carved potatoes gave off a ripe odor. Not only were they increasingly inconvenient to carry around, they were also becoming rather unpleasant.

Finally, the week was over. The sage summoned the disciple. “Any thoughts about all this?”

“Yes, Master,” the disciple replied. “When we are unable to forgive others, we carry negative feelings with us everywhere, much like these potatoes. That negativity becomes a burden to us and, after a while, it festers.”

“Yes, that is exactly what happens when one holds a grudge. So, how can we lighten the load?”

“We must strive to forgive.”

“Forgiving someone is the equivalent of removing the corresponding potato from the sack. How many of your transgressors are you able to forgive?”

“I’ve thought about it quite a bit, Master,” the disciple said. “It required much effort, but I have decided to forgive all of them.”

“Very well, we can remove all the potatoes. Were there any more people who transgressed against you this last week?”

The disciple thought for a while and admitted there were. Then he felt panic when he realized his empty sack was about to get filled up again.

“Master,” he asked, “if we continue like this, wouldn’t there always be potatoes in the sack week after week?”

“Yes, as long as people speak or act against you in some way, you will always have potatoes.”

“But Master, we can never control what others do. So what good is the Tao in this case?”

“We’re not at the realm of the Tao yet. Everything we have talked about so far is the conventional approach to forgiveness. It is the same thing that many philosophies and most religions preach – we must constantly strive to forgive, for it is an important virtue. This is not the Tao because there is no striving in the Tao.”

“Then what is the Tao, Master?”

“You can figure it out. If the potatoes are negative feelings, then what is the sack?”

“The sack is… that which allows me to hold on to the negativity. It is something within us that makes us dwell on feeling offended…. Ah, it is my inflated sense of self-importance.”

“And what will happen if you let go of it?”

“Then… the things that people do or say against me no longer seem like such a major issue.”

“In that case, you won’t have any names to inscribe on potatoes. That means no more weight to carry around, and no more bad smells. The Tao of forgiveness is the conscious decision to not just remove some potatoes… but to relinquish the entire sack.”

Learning (repost)


Roslyn DeBoer, Doorway- the Journey Begins

Learning is the fountain of youth.
No matter how old you are,
You mustn’t stop growing.

Don’t think that creativity is only for artists, writers, and musicians. Creativity is an essential element for everyone. Unlike the outer-directed creativity of making art, solving problems, or writing, the creativity that everyone can engage in is learning.

As long as we continue to learn, welcome new ideas and ways of doing things, and continually expand our understanding of ourselves and the world around us, then we are engaging in the ultimate creativity of the self.

If one looks carefully at those seniors who are ongoing and vital participants in life, one will see that a common habit is continuous learning and interest. These seniors are not the same as they were in their youth. They have found new ways of learning and acting.

As we enter each new phase of our lives, the parameters change. If we are sixty, we cannot do the same activities that we did as teenagers. Therefore, we need to revamp ourselves according to our situation. That continuing act of creativity keeps us young.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
— Buddha

The purpose of learning is growth, and our minds, unlike our bodies, can continue growing as we continue to live. ~Mortimer Adler

“If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” — Mark Twain

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” — Will Rogers

It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.”
— Henry David Thoreau

“More important than learning how to recall things is finding ways to forget things that are cluttering the mind.”
— Eric Butterworth

Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned. ~Mark Twain

The most useful piece of learning for the uses of life is to unlearn what is untrue. ~Antisthenes

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing. ~Thomas Huxley

Give up learning and put an end to your troubles — Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.
— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily. ~Thomas Szasz

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ~Alvin Toffler

You have learned something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something. ~H.G. Wells

Why does the Tao seem so contradictory about learning? Well, it isn’t. The secret of learning is to give up the idea that there are things you have already learned, to “lose something” so you can learn. Then everything becomes open to rediscovery, to new ways of approaching the subject, to acquiring something new.

Most of us think we “aren’t good” at art, for instance. Why? Because when we “learned” about art, we were shown the works of great artists, and then, when we looked at what we could actually produce, it didn’t look like that. We made a judgment then on our own art, instead of realizing we were in the midst of learning. But the secret of creativity, of art, of anything, is to produce what is uniquely your own. You might use techniques others have used, but the work will always be unique to you.

Forget about what you have learned, and learn something new, or learn something anew. Then you can develop a new approach and take it farther than you could before. That is how we grow. By being open to learning, and understanding that our pre-conceived notions may need to be discarded along the way.

Never Give Up, Never Give In

Tao_Te_Ching_Verse_19-resized-600

“The important thing about despair is never to give up, never wrap up and put away a sterile life, but somehow keep it open. Because you never can know what’s coming; never. That’s the great thing about life, the crucial thing to remember. You may beat your fists on a stone wall for years and years, and every consideration of common sense will say it’s hopeless, forget it, spare yourself; and then one day your bleeding hand will go through as if the wall were theatrical gauze; you’ll be in another realm where birds are singing and love is possible, and you’d have missed it if you’d given up, because it might be only that one day the wall was not stone.” — Allen Wheelis

via Whiskey River

” As long as there is injustice, whenever a Targathian baby cries out, wherever a distress signal sounds among the stars, we’ll be there. This fine ship, this fine crew. Never give up… and never surrender! ” — Jason Nesmith

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.” — Jane Addams

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” — Anne Lamott

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
— Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend.” — Soren Kierkegaard

“Oh, you weak, beautiful people who give up with such grace. What you need is someone to take hold of you — gently, with love, and hand your life back to you.” — Tennessee Williams

“Americans have a special horror of giving up control, of letting things happen in their own way without interference. They would like to jump down into their stomachs and digest the food and shovel the shit out.”
— William S. Burroughs

Giving up isn’t bad… just releasing to start again — Personal Tao

Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom,
And it will be a hundred times better for everyone.
Give up kindness, renounce morality,
And men will rediscover filial piety and love.
Give up ingenuity, renounce profit,
And bandits and thieves will disappear.
These three are outward forms alone; they are not sufficient in themselves.
It is more important
To see the simplicity,
To realize one’s true nature,
To cast off selfishness
And temper desire.

— Ta Te Ching, 19

Sometimes we’re afraid of giving up, sometimes we give up because we are afraid. The wisdom comes in knowing the difference. Are you acting out of desire, or out of knowing the rightness of your actions? Giving up desire can be a good thing. Releasing control can be a good thing. If giving up on something makes you feel badly, though, it might be important to keep going. Tao asks us to flow like water. Water is persistent, and tries to keep flowing somehow. But if it stopped, it can turn into a calm lake. Gather enough of it, it is a great ocean. If it is penned up, it can turn into a raging torrent, wearing down anything in its path. If it is controlled, it can generate immense power. It can be a gentle rain, or a damaging flood. It is essential to life, or it can destroy life. Water can be channeled into a useful force, or become a destructive one. The choice is really ours to make.

The Best of San Diego Comic-Con, and Goodbye to All That

We don’t go to ComicCon anymore — too crowded, no fun…

Most painful irony: By winning, nerd culture has lost. When I was a kid the fact that comics and games and fantasy and whatever were awesome was a secret, and people gave me a hard time about it. Now suddenly everyone’s all, hey, no, this stuff is great, Iron Man, woo! Which means instead of being our little secret, now it’s all about big corporations selling nerd culture to as many Joe Douchebags as it can pack into the multiplex. And where am I in that transaction? I don’t want to be anywhere near it.

Best sign: There was a guy crashed out on the carpet on Sunday afternoon. Before he passed out he had managed to scrawl on a piece of cardboard: TWILIGHT RUINED COMIC-CON.

via The Best of San Diego Comic-Con, and Goodbye to All That – Nerd World – TIME.com.

Civilization

preludetocivilization
Prelude to Civilization, Victor Brauner

They civilize what’s pretty
By puttin’ up a city
Where nothin’ that’s
Pretty can grow….
They civilize left
They civilize right
Till nothing is left
Till nothing is right…

— Alan Jay Lerner, “The First Thing You Know,” Paint Your Wagon, 1969

We are born princes and the civilizing process makes us frogs. — Syrus

“No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized” — Will Durant

“I believe I found the missing link between animal and civilized man. It is us.” — Konrad Lorenz, ethologist, Nobel laureate (1903-1989)

“It is a curious thing… that every creed promises a paradise which will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilized taste.” -– Evelyn Waugh

“A civilization that is really strong fills man to the brim, though he never stir. What are we worth when motionless, is the question.” -– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“America may be unique in being a country which has leapt from barbarism to decadence without touching civilization.”–- John O’Hara

“What leaders have to remember is that somewhere under the somnolent surface is the creature that builds civilizations, the dreamer of dreams, the risk taker. And remembering that, the leader must reach down to the springs that never dry up, the ever-fresh springs of the human spirit.” — John W. Gardner

“A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.” — Robert Frost

“What has destroyed every previous civilization has been the tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power” — Henry George

‘Barbarism is needed every four or five hundred years to bring the world back to life. Otherwise it would die of civilization.” — Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, Journal, 3 September 1855

“One… gets an impression that civilization is something which was imposed on a resisting majority by a minority which understood how to obtain possession of the means to power and coercion.” — Sigmund Freud

“If the Aborigine drafted an I.Q. test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it.” — Stanley Garn

“What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea.” — Mohandas Gandhi

Gotta agree with Gandhi myself…

Taylor Mali – Taylor Mali: What Teachers Make?

What Teachers Make, or
Objection Overruled, or
If things don’t work out, you can always go to law school

By Taylor Mali
www.taylormali.com

He says the problem with teachers is, “What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?”
He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true what they say about
teachers:
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite company.

“I mean, you¹re a teacher, Taylor,” he says.
“Be honest. What do you make?”

And I wish he hadn’t done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you get a drink of water?
Because you’re not thirsty, you’re bored, that’s why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
beautiful
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?

Why "cheap" isn't necessarily a good thing

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

But Shell wonders if our expectations are too low. We no longer expect craftsmanship in everyday objects; maybe we don’t feel we even deserve it. “Objects can be designed to low price,” she writes, “but they cannot be crafted to low price.” But if we stop valuing — and buying — craftsmanship, the very idea of making something with care and expertise is destined to die, and something of us as human beings will die along with it: “A bricklayer or carpenter or teacher, a musician or salesperson, a writer of computer code — any and all can be craftsmen. Craftsmanship cements a relationship between buyer and seller, worker and employer, and expects something of both. It is about caring about the work and its application. It is what distinguishes the work of humans from the work of machines, and it is everything that IKEA and other discounters are not.”

via IKEA is as bad as Wal-Mart | Salon Books.

I try to support local artists and craftsmen as much as possible. Much of my jewelry is hand crafted by a local silversmith friend, and I have hand crafted pottery and mugs and artwork and many other things. The closest store to my house is a WalMart, where I never shop. I haven’t bought anything from Ikea in years, since everything we got there simply fell apart after a very short time. Yes, I get tired of my things, but I try to get myself to look at their wabi sabi nature, and appreciate that the things I own are made well enough to last for a long time.

Casey’s points today are well taken:

The shape of life defines a space (what we call the empty space in Taoism) that defines each person. We feel a need to place within our empty space connection and meaning. If you consume meaning, after the consumption: you are left with nothing and left chasing more consumption.

The answer people seek can be stated simply:

To have a full life is to live it.

We spend a lot of time and effort trying to avoid emptiness, filling our lives with activities and other people and lots of stuff and things. I spent a lot of time in my life being afraid of the void, fearing what would happen if I lost things, if I lost friends, if I lost myself. Well, all those things happened, and the best part was all the other things I found — that the void isn’t really so scary, that “crazy” people are often the sanest people around, with a different perspective on life that can be very enlightening, that real friends don’t walk away from you and those who do aren’t real friends, and that “for everything you have lost, you have found something else.”

We cheapen our own lives, and those of others, when all we look for is the least expensive thing that suits our need or desire of the moment. We add value to our lives by valuing the work of others, valuing their time, and their abilities to craft a fine product that we can enjoy using for many years. When I wear my friend’s jewelry, I smile, and when others admire it, I have a story to share. When I take the time and make the effort to find the best quality for what I want, instead of just the cheapest price, I feel like I am valuing myself, the thing I am buying, and the people who made it. I can’t always afford the very best (and often price is no guarantee of quality, really), but even in making the effort, I have taken that step towards being aware of what went into what I’m buying, who benefits from it, and valuing myself and the other people involved as fully as possible.

Teenagers in Aging Bodies

jethro_tull_couple_at_red_rocks_2_7Aging Boomers at 40th anniversary Jethro Tull Concert

“In the foundation of our hearts, none of us sees ourselves as old. Mentally we are all teenagers—teenagers who happen to be trapped in increasingly unreliable bodies.” — James Gurney

I think most of us form our most definitive image of ourselves in our teenage years. In those year we are no longer just children of our parents, but becoming adults with our own ideas about life and our own way of dealing with it all, and we carry a lot of those thoughts and feelings with us throughout our years. My basic personality seems to have remained the same in many ways since I was around seventeen or so. I noticed on joining facebook that a lot of the people who connect with me there are those who I was close to in high school and those who I know now. I wonder where are more of the college connections, but perhaps those people just didn’t make the strong connections that were made in high school, or perhaps we’ve drifted apart more through the years. High school friends are fun to catch up with, and we are either reaffirmed in our view of them or learn new things about them that might surprise or shock or delight us.

This year will mark the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, which I was certainly too young to go to since I was 10 then. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot once more about the aging boomers. I wonder if the reason we fight aging so hard is because we really do actually mentally see ourselves as younger people, and not just the push of society to retain the appearance of youth.

I see my folks, they’re getting old, I watch their bodies change…
I know they see the same in me, And it makes us both feel strange…
No matter how you tell yourself, It’s what we all go through…
Those eyes are pretty hard to take when they’re staring’ back at you.
Scared you’ll run out of time. — Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

Now as the years roll on
Each time we hear our favorite song
The memories come along
Older times we’re missing
Spending the hours reminiscing
— Little River Band, Reminiscing

The music I listened to as a teenager still affects me, but differently — some things make more sense now, looking back. I think even then we all realized of course we would get older, but didn’t fully get what the experience would be like. At fifty, I’ve already had cataract surgery on both eyes (second youngest patient they had ever seen), have arthritis in several vertebrae of my neck from an accident as a teen, have high blood pressure, and have had several surgeries as a preventative measure for colon cancer — and all this since turning forty. But I also do yoga, pilates, and strength training and am probably in as good or better shape than I was at forty. I’m certainly in better mental shape than I was a few years ago.

These days I read a lot of blogs by elders — especially Ronnie’s wonderful Time Goes By which provides links to so many elder bloggers. I suppose I’m looking for clues as to what the experiences ahead will be like. I also volunteer with my dog Darwin for pet therapy visits, and so have many elder friends at various care facilities. But I’m sure as I go through my own experiences I will still be surprised — and will still feel like somewhere inside, I’m really about seventeen.

Narcissism

waterhouse_echo_narcissus
John William Waterhouse – Echo and Narcissus

“Narcissus does not fall in love with his reflection because it is beautiful, but because it is his. If it were his beauty that enthralled him, he would be set free in a few years by its fading.” — W. H. Auden

“As individuals and as a nation, we now suffer from social narcissism. The beloved Echo of our ancestors, the virgin America, has been abandoned. We have fallen in love with our own image, with images of our making, which turn out to be images of ourselves.” — Daniel J. Boorstin

“America has been knocked-up with democracy’s mutant love child. She has finally borne the demonic spawn of greed, narcissism and civilian indifference. (Congrats on a second term Mr Bush).” — Jules Carlysle

“I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity.” — Diana Vreeland

“Narcissism and self-deception are survival mechanisms without which many of us might just jump off a bridge.” — Todd Solondz

“Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.” — Andre Dubus

“We’re making far too big a deal out of our sexual preferences. It’s just another form of narcissism, and I think it can be a big problem and a tremendous obstacle.” — Andrew Cohen

“Whoever loves becomes humble. Those who love have, so to speak, pawned a part of their narcissism.” — Sigmund Freud

some quotes via Ritholz

“ I think you live more and become more familiar with the workings of your own mind — the darkness in it, the narcissism — and the desperate attempts the ego makes to cover that up.” — Patrick Page

“The paradox about narcissism is that we all have this streak of egotism. Eighty percent of people think they’re better than average.” — Mark Leary

“In males, narcissism is something that has been associated with immaturity. Classically, it’s something men are supposed to abandon to become adult males. Today, consumerism tells all males that … they never need abandon their narcissism. That they never need grow up. Just so long as they buy the right products.” — Mark Simpson

“Narcissism is an occupational hazard for political leaders. You have to have an outsized ambition and an outsized ego to run for office.” — Stanley Renshon

“Because that’s what narcissism is all about; looking in the mirror everyday and thinking ‘Damn, I’d like to shag myself.’” — Eddie Izzard

“I have come to realize that we live in a society that encourages narcissistic behavior. And there is an explosion on the internet of sites devoted to narcissism, as well as narcissistic web sites; youtube, my space, etc…” — Stephen McDonnell

social-media

T-shirt logo via despair.com

“Narcissism doesn’t mean you think you’re the greatest person on earth, but rather that all things in the world are relevant only as they impact you…. Being on YouTube, having a blog, having an iPod, being on MySpace– all of these things are self-validating, they allow that illusion that is so important to narcissists: that we are the main characters in a movie. Not that we’re the best, or the good guys, but the main characters. That everyone around us is supporting cast; the funny friend, the crazy ex, the neurotic mother, the egotistical date, etc. That makes reminders of our insignificance even more infuriating.” — The Last Psychiatrist