Star: Tao is the great wealth of those who are awake, the great protector of those still sleeping.
The Way is there, waiting for us to come around, waiting for us to recognize it. There is no punishment meted out to those who don’t get it; we all fail to get it at one time or another. If we are dealing with someone wicked, we should continue to be the person we are and not change in reaction to their deeds; we should show them our deeds instead. If Tao is protecting them, then who are we to sit in judgment? If we are right with Tao, as Hogan puts it, we are wealthy. It would be a mistake to turn away from that. Better to share it with those who are able to accept it, and be patient with those who aren’t.
Star again: Within, within. This is where the world’s treasure has always been.
Star: The most yielding thing in the world will overcome the most rigid.
Think water wearing away stone, or a seed lodged in a rock crevice that germinates and eventually splits the rock in two. Or Shelley’s poem “Ozymandias” and the destruction of the giant statue by wind and weathering. Use of force is a blunt instrument, effective in the short term but clumsy and unsustainable.
Star again: Rare indeed are those who are still. Rare indeed are those who are silent.
I was going through a book of Sam Rizzetta tunes and found this. I find it calming both to play and hear. In his notes Mr. Rizzetta says it can be used as a starting point for improvisation and embellishment, and I can easily see that potential. Sometimes I like it simple, like this version I’m sharing. Hope you enjoy.
Take a breath. Relax.
Mitchell: When they think that they know the answers, people ae difficult to guide. When they know that they don’t know, people can find their own way.
One of the principles of the Unitarian Universalist Church is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We are more interested in questions than answers, and so as a rule do not dictate a view or explanation to be accepted and followed by all. The thing that keeps it from being a “believe whatever you want” approach is the word responsible. The expectation is that having a theology includes doing the work to make sure it is honest and coherent; nobody checks your work, but the belief is that honesty and coherence leads to a fuller, richer life in all its aspects. More than a little Taoism in there.
Star says that at every moment Te (energy, vitality) seeks Tao (the Way). This is the impulse that leads all things back home.
Mitchell: We work with being, but non-being is what we use.
In our modern day quest for information and stimulus we risk losing appreciation of silence, emptiness, the pause between phrases. Two people who know and respect each other can sit in silence without distress. Silence in a piece of music helps us appreciate what led up to it, and the player’s decision about how long to hold the silence says as much as the notes that precede or follow it. The space between trees that allows a view of the mountain beyond or the river’s path leading away is as necessary as any other component but usually goes unnoticed unless it is so vast that it dominates (like the Grand Canyon). While the examples in this verse are physical – the hollow in the cup, the hole at the center of the wheel, the space inside a room – I thought immediately of music and poetry. In the practice of Tai Chi the twinned concepts of full and empty speak to the same idea.
Gia-Fu Feng: Benefit comes from what is there; usefulness from what is not there.
Star: When a thing has existence alone, it is mere dead weight.
Star says that Tao is everywhere; to see it in a person, see it as a person. In a family, see it as a family. In the world, see it as the world.
A while back our minister told the story of a Sufi mystic who was talking to someone who told him he saw God in everything he looked at: trees, flowers, people, and so on. The Sufi’s reply? “I never see anything but God.”
I find it comforting to think that Tao is everywhere, around us and in us, ready for us to choose to recognize its presence. That it dwells in the realm beyond language doesn’t make it inaccessible, just impossible to pin down or categorize.
Mitchell: Let the Tao be present in your life and you will become genuine. Let it be present in the universe, and the universe will sing.
The presence of Tao doesn’t mean that evil ceases to exist, only that it loses its power.
Certainly a different way to consider what to do about the existence of evil in the world; the conventional wisdom, and the mantra used in many cases to encourage a group’s willingness to fight, is that evil must be eradicated. Acceptance of the requirement that if there is good there must by definition also be evil and that, rather than eliminating it, we should act in a way that robs it of its power turns the whole concept on its head. This might be a good and necessary thing to do.
Star: It’s not that they (dark spirits) have no power, it’s that their power can’t harm anyone.
Hogan says that verse 42 boils down to “Live by the sword, die by the sword.”
Reap what you sow, cast your bread on the water and it will return to you a hundredfold, sow the wind and reap the whirlwind, what goes around comes around, instant karma’s gonna get you, the list goes on. Almost everyone is familiar with this lesson from the Tao. It is remarkable how many folks think they are exempt from this basic law of human interaction. There is always give and take, and we can’t opt out of that basic truth. The interplay of yin and yang fills the universe, says Star, who goes on to say:
Only at the still point, between the breathing in and the breathing out, can one capture perfect harmony.
A recent report that the London’s Design Museum 2020 prize for best design went to the groups who turned a section of the border wall between the US and Mexico into a temporary base for see-saws with the wall itself as the fulcrum made me laugh out loud. The idea of children using what was intended to be a barrier as a basis for play is a wonderful example of the power of art to redefine the world we live in. One of the definitions of the word fulcrum is an agent that causes change, and in this sense as well the installation of the see-saws may bear unexpected fruit among the people using them. You can’t play on a see-saw without cooperating with the person on the other end (or in this case, the person on the other side of the wall).
Star: Be tranquil like the rain of spring.
Hogan: If you stay calm, the world will sort itself out around you.
Staying calm is a rare and precious skill in any circumstance, and especially so in difficult times, when the cacophony of voices around us are insisting that we do the opposite. I have read that we are hard-wired to pay more attention to signals that indicate danger than those which indicate the lack of danger. If true, knowing that about people impacts news programs, magazine editorial content, political campaigns, deciding which verses to use as the basis for next Sunday’s sermon, and so on. Telling us we must not remain calm is good sales technique, but believing it is a poor approach to long-term health, whether physical, mental, or spiritual.
Mitchell: The Master allows things to happen. She steps out of the way and lets the Tao speak for itself.
The fact that Mitchell translates the Master as female in this verse is refreshing, to say the least.