Lenten Observance: Day 34

Tao 67 and 68

67: “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion.”  And yet the teachings of the Tao are criticized as nonsense, though for those who have embraced its teaching, it makes sense.  This chapter seems a lot like what we’ve seen before and like what I’ve heard of Zen Buddhism.  Zen Buddhism focuses a lot on doing (or sitting) — but trying to quiet the monkey mind that wants to complicate and stir things up.  So, if you’re cutting wood, cut wood.  If you are carrying water, carry water, and be one with those activities. And that is often so hard to do, as we get caught up in the business of the world, and don’t see past it to experience the specifics of our lives.  The other two qualities here, patience and compassion deal with avoiding judgment.  If you let your fellow be him/herself, whether that person is a friend or an enemy, if you are patient with that person, you are in accord with the Tao, with “the way things are.”  For the Tao doesn’t judge.  And if you are patient with others, you can also be compassionate (and not judgmental) towards yourself.

68: Here we find that the best athlete wants to compete against another top athlete (no easy victory), but he is also not interested in winning (or that is not the dominant idea).  “They do it in the spirit of play.”  Here we have the idea of improvisation, and of playing the game, or being part of the game played out, rather than trying to force a victory.  This seems, to me, to be a big part of the directive of Christ to accept heaven as a little child.  It is a simple and loving acceptance, not all caught up in the complexities of adult life that muddy the waters.  If you can give up on the hopes and dreams of winning, and just focus on playing the game and enjoying it, you really get something out of the activity.  It’s the idea of being in the zone.  And there may be something of this idea in the old saw, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.”  I’m not sure that I believe most people when they say it.  As I think behind it is Vince Lombardi’s statement that “Winning is the only thing.”

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