Fri, 05 Dec 2003


the way

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I have been embroiled in a flame war regarding, of all things, Taoism in, of all places, the Alibata Yahoo! Group. Which is remarkably synchronous with my ruminations regarding Ursula K. Le Guin, whose works are pretty much infused with Taoism, and who wrote a poetic interpretation of the Tao Te Ching as well. The at-times rancorous exchange has gotten my mind back on the Tao, and how I really should get to finishing reading all those different translations that I've started, and how, ever since my crisis of faith, precipitated by September 11 and the Catholic Church's abysmal handling of the child molestation charges, the only thing I've really had any faith in is the Way.

Perhaps it's because, ultimately, I have a pessimistic nature, but I really like the naturalistic interpretation of the Way. It is Western physics expressed in poetry instead of equations. Both the Tao and the laws of thermodynamics reveal a relentless indifference to human aspiration and existence. They do not require human participation in order to be true. (Because, even if Heisenberg and Schroedinger are right, and the universe only exists if there is an observer, I think it's possible that the universe observes itself, though as a mind, it is Godel-incomplete, like all minds and mathematical systems.)

I like these philosophies because it frees us from the oppression of some greater deity controlling our destiny and demanding our worship. And I think, in its pure form, Christianity is also free of this oppression. The God I believe in (most of the time) is a God who believes most of all in Free Will. God created us so that we might love him, but a commanded love is not love at all. So he/she lets us hurt him with our rejection, because the reward of our acceptance, free from fear of punishment, or desire of secondary gain, or any sort of compulsion, is perhaps the greatest force existent in the universe. If God is Love, than everyone who loves him/her back, truly loves God, causes a multiplication of God, and of Love.

But I digress.

I have come to accept that the world's organized religions are mostly instruments for the consolidation and preservation of power, and power is always greedy, always paranoid, always oppressive. Oppression is to power, at least this kind of power, as gravity is to mass. Ah yes. Power. There is the typical power wielded by men of state, by CEOs, by abusive husbands, by the mighty. Most people, particularly those embedded in a Calvinistically embued culture, such as the U.S., readily recognize this as power. The power to make you do things you'd rather not do. The power that grudgingly feeds you, houses you, and clothes you, only because you aid it in continuing to consolidate its power. This kind of power is a voracious black hole that swallows anything within its reach, imploding further and further upon itself, until it swallows the entire world. This is the power that is wielded by Jonathan Edwards' wrathful God, the vengeful God of the Old Testament, the Punisher, the Destroyer.

But the other kind of power, the power that is creation and creativity, the power that is God, is the Tao, is generative and life-giving, that is the power that is given to the oppressed. It is all around us, unharnessed, because we continue to strive for the other kind of power. It is the spontaneous power of laughter, of hope in the face of overwhelming odds, of doing more than just surviving, but of living with integrity and passion, despite the forces arrayed against you. It is the power of the fluctuations of the vacuum, which literally creates something from nothing. From the Void there was everything, and remarkably, even Western Science has figured that out, at least those in the vanguard who have gazed upon the vastness of creation and were awestruck. And instead of feeling lonely and insignificant, they rejoiced. Even in the austere gleaming gems of the skies, the stars hanging out so far away that the distance is incomprehensible, there are enormous mysteries, beautiful structures to be explored and discerned, and comprehended, however imperfectly, by our minds.

I think, and it is only my humble and uninformed opinion, that a true follower of the Way is special because he keeps this power in his heart, despite knowing that the Way brings him to the edge of doom, that the Way will eventually overwhelm him or her, from nothing to nothing, back into the quantum foam from whence we arose. That the Way is unencumbered with worrying which power will prevail, because in reality, the two powers are in lockstep, parry-to-parry. Neither side will ever win, because the balance will always right itself.

But our part to play is not to save the world, which does not need saving. It is not to cure all the ills of the world, to once and for all solve the problems of the suffering. This is, if you think about it, mere laziness, the desire to not get involved, to refuse to be drawn in to the stinking muck and mire of the powerless. Just set it and forget it. Find the cure, and give it to them, and they can go home happy and stop bothering me. This is not the salvation that the Tao has to offer.

It becomes clear to me that the cliche "It's the journey, not the destination" in fact harbors much Taoist sentiment. The big things are impossible for one person to overcome. But the little things are many, and surmountable, and instead of giving into ego and trying to figure out how to save the most people in one fell swoop, start by fixing your own little corner of the world.

We are born to die. This is a consequence of the Tao, a consequence of the Laws of Thermodynamics. It is folly to rant against this truth, though we try, with our medicines and computers. We try to cheat death, to somehow live forever. But the values don't add up. Immortality is akin to the perpetual motion machine. If you screw with the variables enough and fudge some co-factors here and there, it seems like it will actually work. But something has to give. There is a price for everything, either morally or energetically.

So I ramble.

I was pondering the other night, how I felt tired and beat down. How my soul ached, not for one giant sadness that smashed me down, but the hundreds of tiny cuts and lacerations on my soul. I truly believe that it isn't the big things that get you in the end. It's all the small things added up. And for a moment, I mourned that there was no one I could share my experience with, no one who I dared burden with my sadness.

I know there are some who would listen. I thought about telling them, spilling the dark secrets in my heart, but I could not dare. What was my small, tiny suffering to them? They are good friends, and they would not turn me away, but, it comes back to that idea: I wish there was someone who had a stake in what I had to say. But this is not the sort of thing that gets granted out of thin air. Everything has to be in place. And I recognize that I haven't found my place yet. I'm getting closer, but I'm definitely not there.

And so I kept it to myself, and slept in silence, my unremembered dreams easing my care.

I think it might be enough. For now, at least. And I suppose that's all the really matters.

14:45:28 5 Dec 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments


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