To Tao or Not to Tao, is there any choice?

Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 31 was originally featured on the 2nd week in August, 2004.

Note: The Tao Te Ching can be obscure, especially if you think you're supposed to understand what it's saying! We find it easier and more instructive to simply contemplate how the chapter resonates with your personal experience. Becoming more aware at this fundamental level simplifies life. This approach conforms to the view that true knowing lies within ourselves. Thus, when a passage in the scripture resonates, you've found your inner truth. The same applies for when it evokes a question; questions are the grist for self realization.

Chapter 31
It is because arms are instruments of ill omen and there are Things that
detest them that one who has the way does not abide by their use.

The gentleman gives precedence to the left when at home, but to the right
when he goes to war. Arms are instruments of ill omen, not the instruments of
the gentleman. When one is compelled to use them, it is best to do so without
relish. There is no glory in victory, and to glorify it despite this is to
exult in the killing of men. One who exults in the killing of men will never
have his way in the empire.

On occasions of rejoicing precedence is given to the left; on occasions of
mourning precedence is given to the right. A lieutenant's place is on the left;
the general's place is on the right. This means that it is mourning rites that
are observed.

When great numbers of people are killed, one should
weep over them with sorrow. When victorious in
war, one should observe the rites of mourning.


  • MeMe
    edited December 1969
    Whoops. Just realized that my pen-name, Me, reflects a separatist tendency. So can I change that to Us, or better yet, All? But, wait, All is presumptuous, huh. So can you change it to Author Unknown? Good, that's better. Thanks. BUT, actually, I, the author, claiming Author Unknown is a lie. BUT if I'm HONEST about being a liar, then I must be a truth-teller. But if it's true that I'm a liar, then...hmmm. Gee, maybe lies lead to truth...and maybe vice versa. But, then, am I telling the truth or lying when I say that? ARGHHH.

    Another whoops. Just remembered: "He who speaks (or writes) doesn't know." Which means I don't know what I just wrote. So can you take back everything I wrote? Ah, but I just wrote THAT. Which means I DON'T want to take back what I just wrote. BUT taking back a taking back means NOT taking back. ARGHHHH. PLEASE ADVISE. But, of course, you can't advise anymore than I could do what I tried to do but couldn't do. DOUBLE ARGHHHH.

    Sure hope Taoism can get me out of this!
  • edited December 1969
    LOL! (laughing out loud) :lol: Great post! Welcome to CenterTao!

    Now, let me see if I can be of assistance to you. First, pen-names: If it is your belief that you have a separatist tendency, then I think it would be better to leave your name as is than try to hide behind a false (presumptuous) moniker, as we humans so often do. Then again, it might be good to reflect that tendency in your name. Hmmm . . . what a predicament! Anyway, if you look closely you'll see that there's no way to change your name anyway, so you're stuck with it. Actually, that's a lie; as Site Admin I could change it, but I won't :) . Which brings us to:

    Lying. :lol: This is exactly something that Andy (of Letters to Andy fame) would say, with the object being to make a paradox out of something that isn't a paradox to begin with. Kyle (Tao Nut) says talking to someone who does that is like banging your head against a brick wall; very frusterating, although fun in it's own special way. Seriously, though, I think you can be honest about being a liar without being contradictory. That is, you can see yourself as a liar (or a hypocrite, or an overeater, or a whatever) without having the control to do anything about it. I've seen this many times myself.

    Re: [chref=56]He who speaks does not know[/chref] . . . well, this is something that often pops into my head when writing (or talking) about such issues. Again, however, the point is not that you should know (oops, there's the "s" word again) or that if you don't speak, you'll know. It's more like a disclaimer: "OK, I don't totally know what I'm saying, but here goes." See the chat page.

    And round and round we go. Well, time to get busy with some more pressing business. Again, welcome to CenterTao. Maybe you and Tao Nut could collabarate sometime. :P


    -P.S. - You should fill out your "biography" thingy in your profile!
  • edited December 1969
    Ha! You misspelled frustrating. You spelled it frusterating! What a doof! :lol:
  • edited December 1969
    The thing about banging your head against a brick wall is that it's so nice when you stop!! :lol:
  • edited December 1969
    Of course what's nicer about the ceasing of banging your head into a brick wall is the bangingless banging. banging into a wall while not banging into a wall. Lumpless lumps. bleedingless bleeding. Actionless action. Very Taoist. or is it taoistless taoistest. And that's not just for brick. It's the same for concrete, sheetrock, wood, steel, fiberwood, you name it. :wink:
  • edited December 1969
    Dear Me,

    Dear me, I do sense you're over thinking the issue. :) But, alas, we're all trapped in a mind, aren't we? How to get out? :? The Taoist notion, "he who speaks does not know...", also implies, "he who thinks does not know...". Knowing lies deeper than the thinking, speaking or any writing which bubbles up from knowing, but is not itself knowing. Taoist 'knowing' does not depend on the size of the brain... maybe not even on a brain at all. :lol: You'll have to 'sense outside the box' here to entertain the Taoist meaning of 'knowing'.

    Thinking, speaking, and writing are driven by emotion. I'm not thinking and writing this stuff here because I 'know' or 'don't know', but rather because I wish to feel the experience of social connection.

    Now, when I watch a spider crawl across my path, I can feel a social connection as well, but it is a much more subtle 'interaction'. Meaning, that precious experience of connection rests with my ability to empathize with the spider. Empathy, in turn, hinges on the depth and breadth of my awareness. This, in turn hinges on fear, i.e., if I was afraid of the spider, that emotion would overwhelm the gentler experience of empathy. My awareness would be driven to focus on self interest... kill the spider, or run away, or...?

    As to your "hope Taoism can get me out of this"....

    The Taoist view of [chref=56]mysterious sameness[/chref] is helpful. The more I see/feel similarity between what initially seems different, the more connected and at peace I feel. Now, if you have free will, you can just will yourself to sense this "mysterious sameness" and that will "get you out". :wink: Ha ha ha... okay, seriously, if you ever grow weary enough of the pain that dwelling of difference causes, you may be motivated enough to test out another way of seeing existence... maybe even a Taoist way of seeing existence.

    What are the odds that will happen? Probably very slight, because it is empirically (historically) obvious that we hang on to the 'differences' our senses and emotions pickup. This holding on to differences sustains our sense of self, as Buddha alluded to in his
    Second Noble Truth. This powerful sense of 'me' easily overwhelms the subtler sense of 'other-ness' (mysterious sameness). But, you don't want to hear that, right? Seeing how things are makes the 'me' feel helpless. 'Me' doesn't want to "get out" of control. And so the 'me' can never "get out".

    Ironically, what 'me' wants is standing in the way of what 'me' wants :!:
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