A river new–
Ancient words unneeded.
See, touch, rushing beauty,
Drink crystal flow.
When we stand on the banks of a river, we must realize that it is constantly new. Although we might say that it was running long before we were born, its exact configuration — the particular currents, the way it flows around rocks, the shape of its banks, the paths of fish in its depths,– is subtly unique at any given moment. To know the river, we only need to experience it directly: to touch it, to swim it, to contemplate it, to drink it. The same is true of Tao.
Tao is ever flowing. Although it was present since the beginning of time and though many have experienced it, it is here for us to explore today. Touch it. Swim it. Contemplate it. Drink it. If you have touched Tao, you should harbor no doubt about it, nor should you wonder that you need scripture to confirm it.
This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principals of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There never has been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or (as they now call them) ‘ideologies,’ all consist of fragments of the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess.”
I think most of us know, somewhere inside ourselves, when what we are feeling and thinking is truly valid or not. It seems strange, but if you lose your connection to what we know as reality, the world doesn’t really become a strange place, you just start interpreting it in different ways. When you come out of this state, should you be fortunate enough to do so, there is another realization: that much of what we interpret as “reality” in our daily lives is just as unreal as those strange thoughts you believed when you were delusional. Is there really any reason you “must have” that new car, that bigger house, that shiny new thing in the store? Is there really any reason that one particular belief system has more value than another?
Walk outside and smell the air, listen to the birds, enjoy the coolness of the grass under your feet. Visit a river, and feel the flow of its cool waters. Or, just close your eyes and feel the coolness of your breath as it enters and the warmth as it leaves.
What is it that you need to know about the Tao? That it is here, that it is real, that it surrounds you and is you and contains you. If something is true for you, feels real to you, is valid to you, it is the right thing in your life. If it feels untrue, if it feels invalid, if you think it isn’t for you, then it isn’t the right thing in your life. You can choose to believe in Tao or not, you can choose to believe in a spiritual system or not. You can follow the beliefs of whatever spiritual system or religion you want to, or not. But inside, you will know if what you are doing is valid. When it isn’t valid, when it doesn’t feel true, that is your signal to let go of that thing, that feeling, that thought, that need, that desire. But if that internal barometer gets out of whack, don’t worry — other people will probably tell you that. Often in ways that are most unpleasant. The river flows, and if you swim against its’ current, you will feel it. If you flow with it, the journey is much more pleasant.