Without too much trouble,
One can keep on the main road.
But the people love to be distracted,
And perspective is difficult.
People constantly declare that they want to walk the road of Tao. They say that all they want is to reach realization. But this is not true. If it were, they would simply walk their road and attain enlightenment right away.
Instant realization doesn’t happen very often because people become distracted. It is not given to every person to pursue immediate realization. When enlightenment comes, the world becomes completely insignificant. Some of us still want to explore, be involved, amuse ourselves. That is all right, as long as you know that you are making up games and intrigues. In the final analysis, it is all right to be sidetracked a little bit, but one must always be cautious and come back to the main road without losing too much time or ground.
That is why a strong perspective is at the root of wisdom. One who follows Tao may appear to be going away from the goal, but such a person knows exactly when to pull back.
Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao
The Road Not Taken
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost
I guess I don’t really see Tao as the “main road” — I believe it is the road less traveled by. Most people don’t want to fully explore spirituality, it’s true, and I think that is the main road most people take.
The side road of Tao is a personal path, not a major road. It rambles through hills and forests and “leads me beside still waters”. And yes, there are lots of enticing byways to explore, but they are ones that would never be found on the main road. They lead to places like art, and music, and theatre, and romance, and lust and golden retrievers and cats, lots of cats. And gardens, and searching for interesting clothing and new ideas, and exotic places and cultures and so much more. But these aren’t found on the main road. They are found while searching for the things that truly excite one in life, and make you feel alive and whole.
Perhaps when you come to full enlightment, the world does become insignificant. I wouldn’t know, and doubt I will ever get there. And somehow, I really kind of doubt that is what the true path of Tao is about, anyway. I believe we are here to experience the ten thousand things. When it is time to let go and pull back and return to the Tao, we can do that, true. But while we are here, let us enjoy.
And on to my other thoughts, tied to the picture above, on consistency….
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
– Oscar Wilde
“Consistency is the quality of a stagnant mind” — John Sloan
“Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.” — Aldous Huxley
“Consistency is the paste jewel that only cheap men cherish.” — William Allen White
“Emerson has said that consistency is a virtue of an ass. No thinking human being can be tied down to a view once expressed in the name of consistency. More important than consistency is responsibility. A responsible person must learn to unlearn what he has learned. A responsible person must have the courage to rethink and change his thoughts. Of course there must be good and sufficient reason for unlearning what he has learned and for recasting his thoughts. There can be no finality in rethinking.” — B. R. Ambedkar
“Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.”
– Bernard Berenson
“What, then, is the true Gospel of consistency? Change. Who is the really consistent man? The man who changes. Since change is the law of his being, he cannot be consistent if he stick in a rut.” — Mark Twain
Tao is about change, if it is about anything. The world as we know it is in constant change, in many different cycles. One of those cycles is political. Right now, the conservative right wing is at its prime in our country, dominating the discussion and the government. But, it is beginning to lose ground, in so many ways, large and small slips that begin to add up into larger changes.
Bush ignores these slips at his peril. He is seen as uncaring, unconcerned about a grieving mother. He is seen as uncaring, unconcerned about the state of Iraq, about the state of the country, about those who are becoming more and more worn down in the war of the haves and the have-nots. And this will be the ultimate change in this country — when we become, once again, the great nation that cares about its people, the little people, not the people with power and position. This is what has always been great about America, and needs to be again. The Bill of Rights was driven by the concern for the common man’s freedoms. The Civil War was driven by state’s rights and the rights of all men to be free. The Civil Rights movement was driven by the need to recognize the rights of minorities. The Women’s Liberation Movement by the need to recognize the rights of women, a battle we still continue to fight. And the next great political movement?
I think it will be the resurgence of a populism that is lying dormant in America right now and beginning to spring back to life. It is very evident in the grass-roots movements — in my Move On group, in the progressive movement events I’ve attended, in the DFA organization, in Dean’s takeover of the Democratic organization. When this movement hits the Republican organization machine, and it will, they are going to be clueless about how to deal with it. But those on the bottom of the Republican dogpile are not going to be content to remain there for much longer, without their jobs, without their security, without some assurances that they will be cared for and their families provided for.
The Democratic organization is dealing with these changes now. The Republicans are failing to realize they are next, and won’t be able to continue buying everyone off with God, guns and gays forever. They will learn, eventually, that as Bill taught us, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Until Republicans are willing to provide for the common welfare, they have no business leading this country any longer. Bush may be enjoying his consistency of his little mind — but the only truly consistent thing is change.