The Tao De Ching has the masterful phrase: “The Tao begot one. One begot two. Two begot three. And three begot the ten thousand things. The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang. They achieve harmony by combining these forces.” Chapter 42, Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English ©1989 Vantage Books.
It doesn’t take that much thought to realize we have been preceded by our ancestors and will be succeeded by our descendants. We are part of at least ten thousand in our species and lineage alone. Add on to this all the species we eat, drink and breathe in order to continue living and we are quickly surrounded by billions and even trillions (i.e., when you include the bacteria in our own digestive systems). Wow! We are a miniscule part of a gigantic living system on this planet alone.
Recognizing our very tiny part in the “great chain of being” it can quickly become apparent of how unimportant we are, or are we? Does not every link in a chain serve a purpose? If one link is broken does it not affect the immediate links around it, and so forth?
Returning to the Tao Te Ching quote above, one might suppose the “one, two, three” that begin the process might be the Trinity of Christian thinking or some other spiritual triad that precedes Christianity. The rush to religion appears to be natural for our species, in that we are continuously attempting to understand the “world” of which we are a member. What does the Tao Te Ching say about this? How about the very first line: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” Okay, so maybe we cannot adequately describe or even verbalize the whole truth, “so help us God.” So what then can we do?
Some other quotes from the same book come to mind:
- “The wise, therefore rule by emptying hearts and stuffing bellies, by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.” Chapter 3. Does this mean “shut up and eat” and “don’t strive for position just keep doing the work immediately set before you?” Serve wherever you are?
- “In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind. In speech, be true. In ruling, be just. In daily life, be competent. In action, be aware of the time and the season. No fight: No blame.” Chapter 8. This reminds me of the great movie Bull Durham when Crash Davis (Kevin Costner’s role) says to the pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins role), “Don’t think meat. It’ll only hurt the ballclub.” More doing and less talking?
- “Accept disgrace willingly. Accept misfortune as the human condition….Accept being unimportant. Do not be concerned with loss or gain….Misfortune comes from having a body….Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things. Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.” Chapter 13. Why does this remind me of the t-shirt “Life sucks and then you die”?
- “Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, and it will be a hundred times better for everyone. Give up kindness, renounce morality, and men will discover 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.” Chapter 19. A lot of giving up and surrendering. I know, it doesn’t sound very American which maybe means it’s a whole lot more true than this American Dream myth unraveling before our eyes.
Hmmm. To the victors go the spoils so then the victors become spoiled? Or were the Beatles right when they sang “Let it be?”
What are you thinking this morning?