Lenten Observance: Day 10

Tao 19 & 20:  Boy, these are rather long chapters.  Both seem focused on the idea of inviting the reader (listener) to give up those things of the world that are valued — so that if we give up the rat race of making money, if we don’t value things, then we lessen the impact of thieves on our lives.  Valuing things tends to weigh us down, and we feel that things that have no inherent value are things we need.  Then when they are gone (either because someone has taken them, or they have broke, or they are lost, we feel lost without them.  There is also the idea that we should give up saints and wisdom as well — I see this somewhat in teaching — students look to what the experts say about Aeschylus rather than having their own experience (which might be that they hate Aeschylus and his message) with the author.  I try to get them to realize that there is value in what they experience and feel (even if it is confusion) and that parroting some expert will not help them have an experience, but rather cloud that experience.  I remember seeing Bill Cosby in performance once.  He spoke of how he and his wife both have higher degrees, so that when his wife was about to give birth, they checked out all the books they could (they did research).  In the actual event, that research did them little good, and many people go through that experience without intellectualizing it.  When I go to the movies (not so much as I used to), I used to read the reviews beforehand.  I suppose I was doing what my students do — see what I’m supposed to feel or experience. That was part of it.  But I happened to like what some reviewers had to say, and how they said it.  So the reading of the reviews was only partly to learn “how I was supposed to feel about a film;” it was also an esthetic experience on its own.  What I did get out of reading all those reviews was a sense of how to write an expository essay.  I’m not sure I have that down even now, but I’m not terrified if I have to write about some topic.  I just try to channel the inner Ebert or other reviewer (or columnists like Ellen Goodman).  I could never write quite like those masters, but I did learn something — I learned that I didn’t have to, that they showed me that such writing was possible, and, if I believed, I could do so too.  The 20th chapter deals more with the idea of conformity.  All these other people seem to have success, so why can’t I? (“if birds can fly over the rainbow, why, oh why, can’t I?”).  Again, the emphasis here seems to be that the world is full of shoulds, of ways we should conform to what is right, what is powerful, what is successful, but that conformity is something of a trap.  Don’t worry about all the shoulds, but live and learn as you go along.  And yet, I wonder — aren’t some of those shoulds awfully tough to give up?  Don’t some shoulds (some bits of morality) help us live?  Giving up the rules of being good will not make us bad, but there still seems some positive effect of some shoulds in our life.  When they become our weapons to battle life, I think we are in trouble, but I’m not sure I’d want them gone.

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