Lenten Observance: Day 14

Tao 27 & 28:

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving…”  I remember once reading about a Buddhist group that lived communally.  And I recall that the author made the point that, if you were on kitchen duty (no modern convenience — all elbow grease) that such duty should be your meditation and your focus.  In fact, you didn’t do it as a duty, so much as an offering, and you immersed yourself fully in the activity.  And so you don’t focus on finishing the task, but doing the task, and enjoying the task, and being one with it.  I get the sense that the opening line of 27 reflects the same sort of thinking.  There is no “Are we there yet?” whining, but while traveling, one enjoys the trip and doesn’t focus on arrival or what you’ll do when you get there.  On trips, I am rarely at peace — I’m almost always focused on the arrival, and what’ll happen next, and so on.  As an ideal, though, I must say that I rather like this idea, the “cut wood, carry water” idea.  27 also speaks of being like a child in accepting the Tao — and that echoes the statement by Jesus in the NT about accepting God as a little child — despite the “are we there yet?” chant I associate with kids traveling — there is a sense of wonder that kids have (all options are still open) that close over time (we don’t have the time, the energy, or whatever;  we get caught up in oughts and shoulds and these block an enjoyment of the moment). 

28 deals with the apparent opposites, suggesting that even as we fall on one side of a pair of opposites that we “keep to” the other side.  So be male, but keep to the female;  be personal, but keep to the impersonal.  Accept the world as it is, and the Tao will be strong.  One can read this as total relativism, or even apathy, though that is not what the author is saying.  Good and Evil are categories we create in our minds, and those categories are not absolute (the best person has bad within; and the worst person has good within).  There is something of the idea of judgment that is attacked here (this could also be echoed in Jesus’ injunction to “Love your enemies”).  We make a judgment, and stand on one side against the other, rather than see the other side and try to get past the barriers that we create around ourselves that keep us apart from others.  Taoists would not endorse the murderous activities of a Stalin or Hitler, but I’m guessing they would not endorse the actions of those who vehemently push for temperance or other moralists.  There is a danger even in the good intentions of the best — in seeing ourselves as better than some others, we box ourselves in and block others out.

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