Gas Prices and Darfur: Who's To Blame

[Note: I italicize phrases I borrow from the chapter, and link to phrases I borrow from other chapters to help tie chapters together. While making it more tedious to read, :? the Tao Te Ching is best pondered in the context of the whole.

I prefer the way Victor Mair puts a few verses in this chapter. First, 'He who embodies the fullness of integrity is like a ruddy infant'. Integrity being less moralistically loaded that virtue, i.e., [chref=38]a man of the highest virtue does not keep to virtue.[/chref] Ferocious animals will not pounce on it is nonsense, although it may serve nicely as a cultural myth, like Santa Claus. Clearly, [chref=5]heaven and earth are ruthless[/chref]. Predators pounce on the very young and the very old without hesitation.

Back to the integrity angle. The outstanding difference between A new born babe and us is that it has no agenda. An infant knows only 'now', with little or no sense of future or past compromising its integrity. So, in the infant's subjective experience there are no bogie men out there, It has not yet [chref=32]cut the uncarved block[/chref] into thinking birds, insects, animals. Here's the clue for how we can, even as adults, [chref=28]return to being a babe[/chref]. Not to cease thinking, just trust the turth of our thinking less and less. When we believe insects sting us, that produces a kind of defacto mental reality, no matter if or how often insects actually do so. The fear becomes the reality. The same applies to most every aspect of life doesn't it?

Next is Victor Mair's 'Harmony implies constancy; Constancy requires insight'. Mind helps pull us into our messes; can it help pull us out, or does it just dig the hole deeper? After all, emotions drive thinking and actions. Thinking and actions reinforce emotions. Are we're stuck in a vicious circle? Not if insight peeks outside our emotional 'box'. Insight, or seeing inward, sees past ideas of self ('I am') into the [chref=16]emptiness[/chref] that lies beyond. This perception (almost a premonition) seems to have a weak and [chref=21]shadowy[/chref] influence in the other direction. This insight, the [chref=41]image [that] has no shape[/chref], keeps most of our vicious circles from flying apart at the seams.

Trying to add to one's vitality is called ill-omened. Try telling that to all those folks who employ 'Taoist' gimmicks to add to one's vitality. Furthermore, And, Taoist ambiguity sure lends itself to quackery as well. It is ironic, like the 'Christian' inquisition. Christ and Laozi must be turning over in their graves.

The Ma-Wang-Tui manuscripts filled in missing characters of the last verse which gave it this more accurate reading: Something that grows old while still in its prime is said to be not in accord with the Way. I don't know the point here other than to paraphrase chapter 36: [chref=36] If you would have a thing old, You must first let it be in its prime[/chref]. There is a time to be young and foolish, a time to be old and wise. One [chref=2]complements[/chref] the other. Perfect advice for parents; mistakes are the pathway to insight!


  • edited December 1969
    Gas Prices: Who Should We Blame?
    First, what part of this is due to the short sighted scape goat mentality of the population as a whole? I'm guessing it is 'as a whole', for I only actually know a handful of folks. Thus, I'm getting my impressions from the media, which like any channel of gossip, always highlights the 'car crash', i.e., good new is not news. It is far more interesting that 'Johnny killed his brother' than 'Johnny ate his vegetables and passed his math test'. The information we pass between ourselves is always biased due to the fact that we focus more on the 'interesting' than the 'boring'... the something more than the nothing. Thus, while there is moaning and groaning, how extensive it actually is, is anyone's guess. For the sake of argument I'll just assume the worst.

    The moaning and groaning exemplifies our inability to see beyond our current desires. Over the last few years, the American desire for big gas guzzling SUVs was sweeping the land, as though gas would be cheap and plentiful forever. Then, when the situation changed and gas shot up in price, everyone blames the big oil companies for the price hike. Our tendency to episodic periods of profound ignorance and lack of self honesty (hypocrisy) began to puzzle me greatly after I began seeing life through 'correlation eyes'.

    Before 'correlations', I had more of a Hamiltonian view of humanity, and I'd just chalk such things up to the folly of the masses. From that point of view, only a few unique folks had deep enlightened wisdom, while common folks were more like foolish sheep. After correlations my view shifted toward a Jeffersonian view of humanity, with its trust in the innate wisdom of the common man (i.e., correlations reveal common and wisdom on one side of the coin, with unique and folly on the other side).

    For years after this 'revelation', I was continually perplexed by how people reacted to challenging situations (like these high gas prices). If the common man had wisdom deeper than the 'experts', why then did 'he' frequently act, speak, 'think' in such short sighted hypocritical ways? I knew the correlation was correct, and yet experience told me otherwise. It was just weird!

    Finally, it dawned on me :!: . Both the Hamiltonian view and the Jeffersonian view were valid, depending upon the situation. Desire is what thrusts a wise common man into the heights of folly! As soon as [chref=37]desire raises its head [/chref] wisdom goes out the window. When we plod [chref=56]along old ruts[/chref] in 'neutral', wisdom find its way into our awareness. When passion screams for our attentions, wisdom is lost in the din. In hindsight this seems like a no-brainer. Am I just slow? I guess so :roll: .

    The moral of this story: Be [chref=15]tentative and hesitant[/chref] enough to watch each waking moment of life. The more [chref=71]alive to [the] difficulty[/chref] desire causes, the more likely we can bypass the [chref=53]by-paths[/chref] which our desires send us down. In the end, it is not about ridding ourselves of desire, it is about being alive to the instantaneous instinctive reactions for which our desires and expectations set us up.

    Genocide in Darfur: Seeing vs. Feeling
    The situation in Darfur is painfully tragic. It has been going on for some years now and the world does little about it. Why? I've heard the rationalizations and scape goating. But really, the answer is simple; no one is in 'control'! Reason and [chref=38]virtue do not[/chref] guide human behavior, we just imagine (wishful thinking) they do. So when events don't conform to our ideals, we look for a handy scapegoat - it can't be us. We are instinctively driven to feel the 'problem' as being out there, and fixable. We 'see' a problem, we 'see' a solution and we 'see' (imagine) all we need to do is just do it. Such implied free will is a power the mind's eye 'sees'. Our mind's eye has great difficulty seeing itself, and so we can't help but believe what it 'sees'. Thinking traps us in our thoughts. Our mind's eye can only 'see' the tip of the iceberg. In fact, it is simply fear - and its offspring need - which drives doing and not doing. As much as we see the folks in Sudan suffering, we don't feel it personally enough to clamor for action. Moreover, we are unable to choose what or how much to feel. Feeling (emotion) moves us through life, not visa versa. Emotion drives those genocidal maniacs to pillage Darfur. Emotion (or the lack of it) keeps us sitting on our hands. :oops:.

    How can humans be so brutal to each other? This as an inevitable consequence of our intense social instinct. We are among the most social of all species, and with that extreme comes a flip side. We see this natural flip side of social behavior in ants and rats, for example. In our case though, this 'other side of the social coin' plays itself out in civilized ways. We have tools. Pre-civilized humanity had no poison gas to kill millions, nor bombs nor guns. That we, the tool using 'monkey', thinks he is in charge only intensifies the situation. We don't [chref=71]know yet [we] think that [we] know[/chref]. If we could see ourselves more as the 'creature with the oversize brain' we might [chref=61]take the lower position[/chref], and given enough humility, even live up to our Homosapien Sapien epithet. For now, being [chref=16]ignorant of the constant[/chref], we mostly just see scape goats. Our [chref=70]ignorance[/chref] blinds us. And, blindness is a valid excuse!
Sign In or Register to comment.