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Food for Thought

Helderberg in enso

Our beautiful Helderberg

 

 

Awareness, Circles, Pedestals and Great Tao etc.

Thoughts unshared are thoughts untested and thoughts untested are thoughts unexercised and thoughts unexercised are thoughts unrealised and thoughts unrealised and thoughts wasted are thoughts wasted are thoughts unshared and …….

Sharing a thought may require only directing it in thought to those with minds to hear and thoughts to share … the Great Tao will do the rest … and allow us to play our role in its great work.

Yet, thought expressed may also require action taken, and the risk that is attached …

I saw a man - Stephen Crane

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never -"
"You lie"; he cried,
And ran on.

Who has the greater chance of catching the horizon;
He who chases it or he who merely watches its course?
It's not catching the horizon that matters, but
What is learnt whilst chasing it.

An Indian Proverb says
Each of us is like a house divided into four rooms, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but, unless we spend time in each room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.

Jaku Sei Kei Wa,
Tranquillity, humble spirit (true inner person), respect, harmony

If we become tranquil, we allow our inner self to begin to emerge, our true undemanding, humble spirit. Then we will begin to respect all things around us, all things, not just the things we perceive as good. When we do this, we begin to see the harmony of all these things, how each plays a role in the completeness of all. From this we achieve better tranquillity, better enlightenment and we allow our inner self to emerge further ……….. A new cycle begins, a bigger cycle with more wisdom ……… and it too will become a new cycle ………… that will slowly un(b)lock our full potential.

Yet it is this acceptance of things we deem unacceptable that is the great stumbling block.

Da Mo's philosophy says

Feeling not disgusted by corruption and evil,
Nor eager grasping after desire and gain,
Sacrificing not wisdom for the company of fools,
Nor abandoning wonder to preserve the truth,
Reaching the great Tao without excessiveness,
Attaining the Buddha heart without vindictiveness,
Keeping not the path of mere normal holiness,
Transcendent of its own creation.

Line 1 is the toughest to accept but bears some examination.

Perhaps looking at man's role in Nature and our apparent disrespect for our environment provides a good illustration. I offer these views from the Taoist approach mostly although other philosophies offer similar ideas.

Firstly, is man apart from Nature or rather a part of Nature. In spite of our seeming ability to direct nature, perhaps we too are just part of the Great Tao and are doing nothing more than we are required to do - each in his or her own way, fulfilling his or her own role. I heard a Hindu Priest once laugh off the question posed to him about whether man was destroying the Earth. His comment was, the Earth will destroy man long before man destroys Earth. And so if we look at it from his point of view, what the questioner was asking was not if man would destroy the Earth, but whether man would destroy what was necessary for him to be able to live on Earth, a very different thing. So the filters of man's ego have him seeing the health of the Earth measured by those things he needs on Earth to maintain his life and offer him his amusements and entertainments. While man may be able to destroy these things and thereby himself, ultimately the Earth will survive and heal itself, in its own way and own time frame.

So if man is just a part of the Great Tao, then each of us in our respective roles is contributing to the overall harmony of the Tao. This means some are breaking and others are building. Some are disturbing and others are healing. In yin yang terms, both are necessary and inevitable, and just part of Nature's cycles. So then all our respective roles are important however much we may dislike what some do and others do not do. For me to fit into my chosen role, I must be able to accept the roles of others and be able to learn and gain from the understanding of their roles, however flawed I may perceive them to be. I should therefore be able to absorb an attack and turn it into a healing response, or project a destructive force to break up stagnation - if such actions are my part in the cycle.

The mountains outside seem to be such towers of strength and conquerors of time and decay, yet we know they have their very form because of their weaknesses that have been weathered away over time's much more persistent and patient eons. It is only a matter of time scales. The mountains too are flawed, have their weaknesses and will crumble through the persistence of the usually gentle and soft elements of water and air. A great forest can fall victim to a single bacterium. The roots of a massive tree can help to crack a cliff face and crumble it into rubble. Does this make these destructive forces anti-ecological? After all they must have at least the same destructive energy as the mountains' resistance. And have you ever considered, that we often admire this "destruction" and see it as Nature's beauty.

Just to digress for a while
Aristotle said, "Art completes what Nature cannot finish"
Not that I could ever do better than Aristotle, but I like to colour this is little from my humble role in Nature and say "Art continues what Nature has not yet had the time to finish". We usually only see the parts of Nature that are beautiful to us so do not see the unsightly elements, like a freshly broken tree. We see the beautiful root formations of a great tree growing on the rock face, not the destructive force and the resisting yet crumbling mountain that has an equal role in this beauty.

So perhaps, just perhaps, I can find this perfection I perceive in "Nature" (meaning the complex interaction of trees, fields, mountains, etc) also in the people around me, who I may believe are destroying the Earth. Even the most seemingly flawed person may have an important role in the Tao, and may offer a lesson for me to learn. I cannot tell unless I am able to "listen" to their stories. Perhaps true wisdom is understanding how their seemingly destructive roles have a valid place in the Great Tao which needs them all to complete another of Nature's cycles, and then the next and then the next again. But we need to listen with all our senses.

And listening well with all the senses (and that means all: all the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual senses) leads to a state of awareness that connects us moment by moment to all that is around us irrespective of likes, dislikes, proximity, distance, large, small ……

But as the Bard wrote, "To sleep: perchance to dream: Ay, there's the rub;". All comes at a price.

Good awareness has the great benefit of allowing us to see and understand so much more of what is around us.
unfortunately (or is it fortunately),
Good awareness has the great disadvantage of allowing us to see and understand so much more of what is around us.

We will see both the root, and the crumbling mountain.

If we cannot develop the wisdom to accept this and understand this interplay, then we will be torn apart, rather than achieve harmony.

Aristophanes said….
Immaturity is outgrown
Ignorance can be educated
Drunkenness can be sobered
But Stupidity lasts forever

This is often interpreted as being a bit elitist in terms of stupidity being a fixed state that the individual (organisation, nation, etc) cannot change. This is not true, stupidity is a choice, a choice to remain stupid. Someone with a supposedly low intellect who uses his or her abilities well will be admired. This is wisdom in action, a choice not to be stupid. Great intellects may easily be dogmatic or ego driven, unable to listen to others or see the value of these "lesser" beings (as perceived by them) in their lives. This is stupidity. What is a great teacher with nobody to teach? Perhaps great students are necessary to make a great teacher, great disaster is necessary to bring out great heroes, great disease is necessary to bring out great healing.

From two completely different sources of wisdom

Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children. - Kahlil Gibran, mystic, poet and artist (1883 - 1931)

There is nothing noble about being superior to your fellow men. True nobility is being superior to your former self. - Radiohead, loud, raucous, head-banging modern-day youth, heavy metal band (now)

The enso continues….

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Last updated 2010-12-23 09:12