Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. 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 46
When the way prevails in the empire, fleet-footed horses are relegated to
plowing the fields; when the way does not prevail in the empire, war-horses
breed on the border.

There is no crime greater than having too many desires;
There is no disaster greater than not being content;
There is no misfortune greater than being covetous.

Hence in being content, one will always have enough.

Read commentary previously posted for this chapter.
Read notes on translations


  • edited December 1969
    Emails to Lynn, Part 2
    This loooong post is a collection of emails between Lynn and myself over three years or so. They are arrange in order from the latest going back in time to 2004. It's so long that it must be posted in 4 parts.

    We tackled various issues over that time. Mostly she posses a good question (in italics) to which I respond. Questions are always better than answers, but I do the best I can - apparently 'blowing her mind', as she puts it, more than once. I'm always 'blowing my mind', so I guess we share good communication. I don't know if these will be helpful to anyone, perhaps they are not even worth the paper they are printed on. :wink:

    === (Up to September 22,05)

    Dealing With Obsessiveness
    My 'love of order' has gotten worse since I retired...I guess my brain is less occupied by work and so it directing all it's energies towards my obsessiveness. Perhaps as I face 'what-is-ness' I too will be able to balance the need for order.

    The issue for me is how to 'hoodwink' my instincts into serving 'me' best. In other words, the sense/need for order is a talent, a genetic trait, an instinct. Given no counter balancing natural forces, it can become obsessive - the more 'talent' you have, the more obsessive you can become. This applies to any and all talents (inherited and instinctive - which is really pretty much everything!).

    Thus, you see retirement removed some elements of counter balancing forces 'out there'. So, this is why taking on another 'work', which now can be as much a labor or love as you wish to make. But there should be struggle involved to give the balancing effect. Involvement with people - social interaction - also counter balances the forces that can make us obsessive.

    I think this is the greatest challenge facing people as they age in these times. In ages past, older people always had some important role in the tribe / family. No one retired! You lived until you died. The industrial revolution has really altered and bypassed the natural forces which helped keep us big brains sane and living a meaningful life. So, don't hesitate to 'work' more... or enough to the point you feel the effect. Facing 'what-is-ness' is the thing to do while we 'work'. It is the background. Without, sufficient foreground challenge (struggle), it is harder to neurologically be with 'what-is-ness' I suspect.

    It is all about balance I find. If we loose that, we become neurotic. I speak from experience. So I struggle to keep enough struggle happening to keep me rooted. This is a central issue for me. More so as I age.

    That's interesting. Intuitively, when I retired, I knew I needed to get more physical so that's when I started exercising. And I keep my mind busy with studying Buddhism and Taoism, but that's probably not enough. Evidently, not enough, since I'm getting more obsessive/neurotic.

    I suspect that 'enough' is the point at which the neurotic symptoms subside. There is a real difficulty reaching that 'happy medium' (golden mean), for we have no free will - instinct (biology) rules, despite our beliefs to the contrary. Of course, I don't have to tell you that. I just need to keep refreshing my memory of 'the stakes' involved. Struggle is a key element. But, we are naturally lazy and wealth (and retirement) allows us to indulge our laziness. In the wild, Nature would not permit us to indulge... in anything! In freeing ourselves from Nature we pay a price - we get freedom. Freedom without a keen sense of 'responsibility' brings sorrow. Hence, Jesus' comment about the rich man and the camel.

    I don't think I noticed before that we notice the effects of fear and not the source, but that's how it is. When you say that the fear sense is the haunting sense which is often referred to as the you mean just that? All fear comes from the void? Or the void is perceived by us, sensed by us, but interpreted in light of our quest to survive it becomes fear?

    Fear is the void, the void is fear. We all sense it, but have a hard time naming it. Some call it God, or the 'fear of God'. This essence is the power behind the 'throne' of existence. The material world, from quarks to galaxies, share this 'sense of fear' that we sense. That is the beauty of it. What seems to different is simply the ripples of illusion. We sense the 'mysterious female' and it drives us to act. That is what keeps us hopping around as we do, although we think we are in charge.

    Fear is the void, the void is fear. We all sense it, but have a hard time naming it. Some call it God, or the 'fear of God'.

    I'm having a problem understanding how the void is fear and fear is the void. Fear is a human (or animal) emotion. The planets, the galaxies, quarks, whatever don't feel fear.

    The 'fear' I refer to is the 'quality of reality' upon which our emotion of fear is founded. This 'quality' is also drives the galaxies... etc. There is a handy term in biology, emergent properties, which is a useful principle to ponder when thinking about what I'm saying. Or just think of this in terms of cause and symptom (effect). If you follow each symptom to its underlying cause.... all the way down.... you find this quality of emptiness - void. It drives all we do, but we are unaware of it, mainly because we think we are choosing,i.e., good old free will. The belief in free will of the self makes it impossible to sense what drives the whole shebang. I suppose it is all pretty obscure.

    Explain mysterious female.

    Mysterious female is the void - death - weakness - silence - still - dark - cold. It is that which preceded the big bang. Out of Nothing - the mysterious female - came Something - the universe. The view is that this 'before the big bang' underpins all NOW. Everything in existence, every something, 'feels' this nothing-ness and responds, according to its nature, acting to control its circumstance. Of course, this process is most easily seen in life forms - especially human comings and going. Above all else, life is impelled to organize and control to balance entropy (there is that mysterious female again). You might say this impelling to organize and control is life, all the way from a virus to a human.

    I suspect that the correlations is the best way - the only way maybe - to 'semi rationally' see what I'm driving at. I emphasis rationally. Other wise one must access this 'big picture' silently and intuitively. Words, as we know, are extremely limited when expressing the subtlest and simplest. They always get in the way because they are not well suited to express matters of 'cosmic' proportion. The correlations simplifies and distills words down to a symbolic core from which the only place left to go is the 'silent and intuitive', but you can still retail a symbolic reference. I don't know. This all sound like gooblety gook I suppose... and maybe it is!

    Couplets and Correlations
    So are the couplets meant to be taken as a way to live your life, to balance the extremes? I like them but it might be difficult to do. "confront within the FEAR, yet EVADE within the anger" might take me years!

    I think of them as information helping us see the essence of wisdom. We just need to realize the extremes and where balance lies - and not make any kind of goal or work out of that. I find that the deeper realization 'sinks in', the more balance happens. Indeed, it only truly happens that way and it happens naturally. It is very easy to be natural. It is impossible to be otherwise. Trying just makes life a futile struggle.

    So, just seeing where balance lies is sufficient. The journey to that middle place happens as the needs which push the extremes wear themselves out. So, yes of course, it takes us all a lifetime. Even if we lived 1000 years, we'd still be gradually moving toward finer and finer balance. Giving up the struggle is the quickest way to finer balance.

    Taking the Lower Position When Being Yelled At
    I didn't even think of taking the lower position when my brother was yelling at me, but I am now. Seems to me the most difficult time to take the lower position is when you feel threatened. Do you find that's true? It's probably the best time to take the lower position, but animal nature might rebel.

    The 'trick' is to take the lower position BEFORE HAND. I shout that one out because you have to have the presence of mind when you are sawing so that a slip won't cut your finger off. If you wait until you cut your finger off, it is too late. Anticipate the worst ahead of time keeps you alive to the true situation. As you understand him at a deeper level, i.e., what is making him tick, so to speak, as well as what is making you tick., then you will have something to help you be mindful of as you attempt to anticipate.

    It is not too late for the next time! The following from Chapter 15 applies to this approach:

    "Of old he who was well versed in the way
    Was minutely subtle, mysteriously comprehending,
    And too profound to be known.
    It is because he could not be known
    That he can only be given a makeshift description:
    Tentative, as if fording a river in winter,
    Hesitant, as if in fear of his neighbours;..."

    The more you see the underlying forces at play, the more "minutely subtle and mysteriously comprehending" you become. That really helps to make you "Tentative, as if fording a river in winter, Hesitant, as if in fear of his neighbors", because you are aware of the 'wild nature' you are dealing with.

    Using Animals as Models of Nature
    When using animals as a template to determine what's natural and what's big brain, we can't use dogs. I took Alex to the vet, and he 'jumped bad' with another dog in the waiting room. When I said 'Alex, be nice', he smiled, wagged his tail and stopped. His natural instincts are overridden by his need to please his owners.

    No, no, no.... one of his most compelling instincts is to please the 'alpha male', to cooperate socially with the tribe... or pack. Dogs share much of the same driving social instinct as humans, which is why they easily become 'man's best friend'. The point with Alex is that that experience is over and done with ... he won't be mulling it over for the next year, or what ever, as we might...

    I see the civilizing forces acting upon our domestic animals in the manner of food preferences and other comfort issues. They get 'spoiled' and a little neurotic by the lopsided opportunity to have more comfort and security than they would ever have in the wild. That effects them emotionally just as it does us. With us and our big brain, we 'make the most' out of our imbalance.

    Everything bubble up out of emotion.
    Nostalgia the 'affliction' of older people. And it evokes melancholy feelings for sure. The 'cherry blossom' which is life. I'd assume that nostalgia is a 'by-product' of the separate self - self consciousness. I'm thinking animals don't feel nostalgia.

    I don't think animals feel nostalgia either. But they do miss one another after one dies. So your reality check is to compare whatever feeling to animals. If animals share it, it's part of nature. If not, it's big brain stuff?

    Yes. Of course the initial origin is in the emotion, like "missing one another after..", but that emotion stimulates thought which in turn feeds back into the emotion... and before you know it we have made mountains out of emotional mole hills. What we have in common with animal life, well actually all life, from virus on up, is the 'under the surface bulk of reality'. The stuff unique to us is just the 'tippy tip top' of that iceberg of reality.

    Correlations - Write em Down!
    Speaking of correlations, I've been meaning to ask you, when you tried to figure correlations out, did you actually take a pencil and paper and write correlate those 'test words'?

    No, I didn't. Should I?

    OH YES!!! That is the ONLY WAY it can be understood!!! Luke just fixed the correlation page so when a person prints it out, it will print out the two categories of words in italics and color and such. Give it a try and let me know. First, does it print out ok? Then, you might kind of 'play' with it. This approach to perception is subtle... think 'mysterious sameness' as you write the 'test words' down according to their Yin-ness or Yang-ness.

    Boredom = Peace
    mmmmm...see, I still think deeper is better. Connected is better, Open is better.

    Just shows you the power of instinct and 'greener grass'. Of course we feel better when balanced, yet we have our instinct driving us off balance, i.e., pulled out of boredom (which is just another word for balance) to something stimulating, which takes us off balance in the 'illusionary hope' of finding balance (boredom = peace). Round and round we go. So anyway, what ever we see as a 'greener grass' will be 'better' in our eyes. Which is fine of course. I find it helpful to know that this is what is happening. This diminishes my expectations which keeps me closer to balance that otherwise. Yes?

    I think you need to slap me in the face!

    I think you do that enough on you own... :)
    Interesting....boredom=peace. I understand what you mean, but I bet you don't get bored!

    This is the irony of life. Peace cause war. Boredom causes activity. So, yes I'm never or seldom bored because only a few 'moments' of that thrusts me back into action, either physical or mental. It is just biology of the survival instinct, i.e., boredom = peace = death. Activity = war = life. So, no wonder, as Buddha observed, life is suffering... :)

    The Myth of the Bodhisattva Vow
    The vow myth that if you have it you have to give it to everyone else, when in truth they need to find it themselves. Is that what you mean by responsibility?

    The myth aspect of the Bodhisattva 'vow' is that you have any choice in the matter. Like 'making a commitment to ...'. It is all social based wishful thinking myth. What I mean is that there is not 'future' or other place from which you are 'vowing' to not go to (nirvana), and instead stick around and help other life make the journey so everything ends up in nirvana as one happy family. This is just another paradigm, not unlike the Christian one really, which views reality as a divided: 'here' vs. 'there', 'I' vs 'you', 'better' vs. 'worse'... and on and on. But, this paradigm 'sells' - people need it to have something to hold on to. Differences are illusionary - in the eye of the beholder. Sameness is neutral, eternal, beyond before yet so close you can't see it for it is all around. Words don't work well to convey this really for they parse the 'all' - they are how we maintain the illusion.

    Do you think we can live from the deeper sense? Do you feel that you do that? I feel we can.

    The main hitch to this lies in what we imagine the 'deeper sense' to be. We do live from the 'deeper sense', we just expect it to be different that it is. As you discount the reality of your thinking, judgments, expectations and such, you can feel 'now' deeper. One of the biggest hitches is really that we expect it to be a 'transcendent heavenly peace' - pain free, pleasurable, '50 virgins'... :) . I assume this is our hunter gather instinct: 'the grass is always greener, so let's push on over there and maybe we'll find something better to eat'

    Go with your neutrality. It always us to sense 'deeper'. Although, there is no advantage to sense deeper. Every 'way' has its consequences, its trade offs. That is the justice and beauty of Nature as I see it. No free passes for anyone!

    Implied Choice
    I re-read it a little and see there is a lot of implied choice in this. But I am stimied...there is no way I can say that I do not value the feeling of the sacredness of being alive, of everything. So I guess as you say, I am condemned to believe what I believe. holy moley!

    Being content is a feeling of wholeness, integrity, unity, balance. This feeling is common to all life. We put labels on the feeling, like I just did, and you did with "sacredness of being alive". The trouble with sacredness and spiritual stuff is that it is hype prone and easily becomes self righteous and superior. That's why I like simple words that have meaning for mundane reality, balance as in what you need to walk, when a building has structural integrity it may survive an earthquake better. Wholeness, as in the whole apple, whole story, whole life, whole family,...

    I got sidetracked a little... anyway, feeling content is common to all animals, us included. You don't need to believe anything to feel content, and in fact belief can sometimes cause the opposite. That is why animals have deeper contentment and are more sane than we do... at least that is one 'why'. We hold onto belief because we are not content. Our belief bolsters us. Your natural self needs no belief to be.

    When you talk about connectedness and openness, aren't you talking about the same thing? Isn't that "better"?

    Not better, not worse. the 'advantage' brings with it a consequences, kind of like a sense of 'responsibility' (not free will kind, mind you). That is what lies behind the 'vow' myth I mentions last.

    I keep coming back to the same place in the circle, don't I?

    Reality is like a circle. Your sense of that is symptomatic of a deeper sense of reality. Our biology hoodwinks us (animals) into feeling reality as a linear cause and effect phenomenon. We are especially hit hard by this illusion because of mind.

    Being in the Moment - The Problem is the Solution
    So, being totally in the moment is not particularly any better than being somewhere else. You just can't win for losing as they say. Which is just how a perfectly just universe works! Hooray!/ Aren't you always in the moment, even if you are lost and unaware? How can you not be in the moment. "Wherever you go, there you are." The trick is to be aware and alert of the moment--that is what meditation is, sitting or not. So why is it not better to be [alert] in the moment? I think it is better than being 'lost.' But you will just say that there would be no lost if there were no alert...huh?

    That sounds about right. The moment, I should say the one that I often inhabit, has me connected to 'all' which can be a bit much at times. It is not unlike leaving home for the first time and experiencing the world. Openness to the 'all' is that kind of journey. By 'all' I guess I mean that which lies just around the corner... Where belief ends, the 'void ' begins. That is why we tend to believe whatever we believe. It is sometimes more comforting to not see what's around the corner.

    Yes. Expectations are our ball and chain. What strikes me is how we look for an exterior solution, a method, a trick, something to learn. In AA we say '"it's an inside job", yet we seek a magic bullet to fix our problems. Maybe the magic bullet is making the problem your friend.

    Yes. It helped me greatly to see that the 'problem' is reality and the solution is illusionary (correlations), thus kind of making the 'problem' the 'solution'.

    Let's Be Kinder To Ourselves First
    I see a lot of implied 'free will' in most all religious views. Also, I really like seeing our fear of emptiness and such as a biological reality, and not something 'wrong' with us. That's my beef with religions stuff in a way. They often parse life into persona and fundamental 'better' and 'worse'. I see it is all natural and we are just hapless apes in curious circumstances that challenge us in ways different that animal in the wild. No morality, virtue, God or what ever, need be invoked.

    YAY! Your philosophy really lets one off the hook! Yes, good analogy. Gads, I feel so self-centered sometimes! Well, that is my #1 aim. We need to be kinder to ourselves so we can in turn be kinder to others. I see religions have it kind of ass backward, i.e., be kind to others, love neighbor as self.... But, what we do externally is only a reflection of who we are within. So, it is time to soften up the inner person! Let me know if/when I come off sounding otherwise!

    The Paramitas (Perfections)
    The paramitas (perfections) were not taught by the Buddha but by subsequent buddhists. They are: generosity, wisdom, morality, patience and energy. These qualities supposedly "support our practice" of meditation and "are supported by the practice."

    My view is that these ideas lull us into not looking at ourselves as we are... as animals. Generosity, wisdom, morality ... blah blah blah, all set on a pedestal to serve society's agenda. But, they are useless, only resulting in hypocrisy. We, like all animals, have generosity, wisdom, morality ... blah blah blah, under certain circumstances and to a certain extent. But, don't tell anyone least the secret get out!... :D

    The Vow of the Bodhisattva
    I'm not sure how you took the leap from the (Rumi's) idea of death returning to that field (which feels so right to me) to the vow of the Bodhisattva. Can you explain?

    When I feel connected... in the moment as we say... 'right-doing' and 'wrongdoing', the past and the future all merge together into now. Also, all creatures past, present and future merge in that moment. So, I'm 'stuck' there with all being. Death is no escape (the 'nirvana' myth). Indeed, life and death merge together into that moment. That is why the 'vow' part of the bodhisattva vow is 'hoodwinking' of some sort. So, being totally in the moment is not particularly any better than being somewhere else. You just can't win for losing as they say. Which is just how a perfectly just universe works! Hooray!

    One of the revered Shambhala monks is doing bodhisatva training exclusively. I'm not sure I'm ready for that but I can let it rattle around for a while. It sounds so darn formal and serious and I feel so flighty and silly.

    That is the social side of the 'deal'. Our social instinct rules the human roost.

    It reminds me of the story of the Buddha who is asked by a man how can the man find contentment when....and he lists 87 problems. The Buddha says that the 88th problem is the man thinking that there should be no problems!

    Yes. Expectations are our ball and chain. What strikes me too is how she is looking for an exterior solution, a method, a trick, something to learn. And my experience is that 'learning' only misleads me. To be honest each moment and watch allows me to respond to circumstances as wise as possible. When I slip up here, folly follows. It is as simple as that. But, if one is seeking something 'out there', it is futile telling them it is 'in here', and yet,... So, life unfolds along as it unfolds. All we 'need' to do is watch, as you mentions in regards to the upcoming party. Just remember, grunt grunt, we are all animals. Maybe if you get up close and sniffer her a barrier will drop... or get thicker of course... :)

    Natural Food?
    He gets sick a lot and I have him on all kinds of vitamins. Not the right ones for this I guess. Any ideas? Echinacea? (spelling?).

    Well, lots of vegetable in diet is what we, as animals, would be eating. Bugs too, but I figure that would be a hard sell. In lieu of bugs, a little of some other animal (dairy, fish, etc). Less on the grains and meats. Some fruits and nuts.

    We do eat a lot of fruits, nuts and vegetables, otherwise, we'd be dead already. I'm surprised about grains, through. They seem so wholesome. I'm not surprised you recommend bugs...that just figures!

    We didn't evolve to eat grain. Birds did. We really started eating it at the agricultural revolution. It was efficient food source that we could store for later.

    Are We Evolving?
    Don't you think we are evolving? You don't. In a million years, don't you think humans will be 'better'? No. You think they will be extinct!

    Ha! Could be. But, certainly not 'better'. Our problem is that we see a 'problem'. Other animals don't 'see' a 'problem', so are content in their moment. Now, the only way to evolve out of this dilemma would be to evolve a smaller brain, less capable of making an illusionary mountain out of sensory mole hills. So, I see help for us coming from medicine. Have more people live longer and longer so they have a chance to 'learn', to see the 'illusion', to mature. If the average age of the human race at any one time is say 150 years old, society civilization and such will look far different than it does today. We will as a whole live much more in balance with nature because we will realize the by-paths are dead ends.

    Educating People to Think and be Curious
    The curiosity...I find it hard to believe that every person on the earth doesn't want to know what it's all about. Isn't that like the most important thing to try to find out? It seems natural to me to want to know.

    Well, it is important 'theoretically'. I mean that is the pretense of education - to teach the young to 'think' and ask questions. I think it is just the opposite. To implant the paradigm firmly in people's minds so they don't have to question. Civilization functions much better when everyone believes the same thing and acts the same way.

    Maybe You Need to Believe There Is No Free Will?
    Do you feel that you have a need to believe in the balance of needs principle? Or maybe you have a fear of free will?

    I'm sure some will think so! I'm really driven to KNOW what is going on. Why? I'll just chalk it up to the genetic mixture I inherited. Also, as I've dropped beliefs (most during my 'correlations' period 20 years ago), I became increasingly curious. I assume that is natural. If you don't think you know, i.e., believe this or that, then you just naturally become more curious. I think that is why children tend to be more curious than adults. They havn't stockpiles a range of beliefs yet. You seem rather curious, so I suspect you don't believe the stuff you believe as deeply as others might?

    Balance seems to be Nature's number one 'direction' or 'process', or what ever we can call it. From the quark to the human and everything in between. Now, does nature appear this way because I need it to? The thing is, I don't think I really care. It just seem that is how nature works, just like the sun comes up and set, and water boils and freezes. Seeing my experience through the 'lens' of balance and also of 'symptoms' make life and the world so transparent and easy to know. Whether it's 'true' in some absolute way make no difference to me. The proof is in the pudding, eh?

    You said, "As you are able to understand how this simply mirrors your own self interest, true compassion deepens". Do you mean self-interest in that I don't want to be a victim of genocide and so I can feel compassion for others who are?


    But I can't feel compassion for a virus. So then, when you realize the genocide is the same, it's only your perspective that's different, your compassion expands to include bugs?


    The ideas you present here are intriguing, but I haven't experienced it, so it's not real to me (yet).

    Hey, that's where the meditation's journey comes in, i.e., you need to leave some self illusion behind ('I') to become a 'bug'. It is like joining one giant extended family!

    What you suggest--to observe the origins of actions--seems really difficult to me. I'll have to let that one sink in for a while. But, that is simply meditation brought to bear on moment to moment life. Be in the mundane moment and notice what is happening vis a vis your biology, your nervous system. Does that seem difficult? Perhaps I've not explained it sufficiently?

    I Don't Like Buddha's Noble Truth #4
    So you are saying that Buddha's #3 and 4 are not true? In my experience, as I get older, I can let go of attachments sooner. It's still hard, it's still a process, I still resist, but I see the resistance so clearly and I find I can work with that. It's just one attachment at a time....there doesn't seem to be one fell swoop (enlightenment?) for me.

    Now that is the reality of it, not a smidgen of hype do I hear in your words. It is not so much Buddha's #3 and 4 are false, they are just hyped up by those looking for a solution. The only issue I have, if any, with that is that it is not 'what is'. And if we pretend that 'what is' is some idealized otherness, then we're bound to keep swimming against the flow. As history shows.

    I haven't ever said this out loud, but I don't like Buddha's Noble Truth #4 at all. Right this, right that. I have some real ex-Catholic resistance. Some say fake it till you make it. Well, I'm unable to do that and so until I am say, compassionate, I'll just have to be the way I am; what else can I do? Geez.
    Nothing of course, nor should you. The problem that creeps into #3 & #4 is the rather universal notion of free will that all folks regardless of culture seem to hold to. We here, and the Christians especially, make it a cornerstone of their religion, i.e., God gave us free will. So, then we all get the 'should' and then comes the judgment. I'm going to soon post something that Jesus said that would indicate that he didn't believe in free will.

    So I see the 'right' here as more like 'right' vs. 'left'. Turn this way and your road is less bumpy than if you turn that way. One way is more efficient than another way, and if you want more efficiency you will naturally go that way. If you don't care, you will draw straws. But, it is no big deal, either way, yet, #3 and 4 get pumped up. Our problem is that we TRY TOO HARD. The message in #3 -4 lends itself to TRYING TOO HARD. Mountains out of mole hills.

    Becoming a Taoist
    How does one become a Taoist? Is it like becoming an just say you are?

    Hey that's good. I suppose so. Of course, you alway have in the background the silent sense that, to paraphrase... "the Taoist that can be names is not the constant Taoist.." If the go-generating complementary view of nature rings true you are a 'Taoist' even without the name 'Taoist'. So there were 'Taoists' before there was Taoism... lone long before.

    I'm looking for a book of the Tao Teh Ching with commentary to tell me what it means. Do you have a recommendation? I saw the list of books you recommend, but none have commentary.

    Well, I write the commentary each week and have a collection of Taoist meeting's commentary. I don't know how intelligible it is, of course. But, in truth, you don't want anyone to tell you what it means, because know one 'knows' what it means. I'm mean, what ever is said by anyone about what 'it' means is nothing more than a reflection of who they are... not of what the Tao Te Ching is 'saying'. This is true of everything I guess, but profoundly true of the scripture.

    Thus, the more direct way to know, is to reads it and attempt to 'fit' your experience into what is said. What you see is a reflection of the depths of your experience. I think you'd say this is a meditative path. There is no answer save the one that you plumb from your 'original nature'. It will 'bubble up' gradually and you explore your whole life experience in the context of each and every chapter. As you notice, the last few I've found to be inconsistent with my experience. I've not reviewed what I wrote about those 2 chapters years ago so I don't know if this is a new thing. Still, I've always found something inconsistent with my experience. The folks who wrote it were simply human, like us all, set in their time and space, and so I thing their views reflect that.

    Anyway, the depth you will find there is the depth within you. It is very possible to plunge deeper than those who wrote down their Taoist world view. The beauty of the Tao Te Ching lie in how often it poo poos the intellect, speech, cleverness, and such, and points to the mystery... without trying to define it (and thus kill it!). Nibble on it, don't gobble, and you will plumb the depths.

    Saving Stuff and Hype
    I seem to want to save some things you say, but it reminds me the distain I felt when a friend said I should catch, categorize, and mount the butterflies around here. Maybe it's good to have these ideas floating around in my head; fluttering instead of pinned down.

    Saving stuff is simply to bolstering our sense of self, i.e. Buddha's #2 Truth. Some stuff, the tools for survival.. food, firewood, etc. Most stuff though,... nick knacks, thoughts, words, stories,... is provides physical and emotional comfort. Well, the basic survival stuff fits that category too, doesn't it. But, it is the attachment to any and all of it that creates and sustains the illusion of self.

    I suppose my 'beef' with spiritual hype is the fantasy that we can extinguish fantasy, or 'evil', or what ever scape goat we pin the 'human problem' on. In the case of Buddha's #2, I see it as precisely so. The notion of enlightenment as an elimination of this cause is non - sense. Ironically, one could say that enlightenment is the realization of the problem coupled with the realization that the problem is reality while any proposed solution is illusion. Now, that view is not very attractive to anyone seeking a 'solution', and so hype is born. Not only spiritual hype, but the hype that pervades every thing our species does or thinks. I think it is remarkable that you entertain my serious view of 'how it is', (whether of not you concur).

    Maybe we as a species are all getting ready to see things without the 'positive' lens we've always looked through? Certainly, the profound shift in human culture (civilization) that has been happening over the last few hundred years will demand more honesty from our paradigms (world view) than in the past... or so I suspect.

    Deal With 'It', or Search for a New Myth (paradigm)
    The reason I'm drawn to Taoism is that there are no shenanigans; no magic, no romance, no frivolities. So it seems true to me. Now why that should be I don't know. Perhaps because it doesn't feel like anyone is trying to pull anything, play tricks, lure me in. It's like here it is; this is what it's like; deal with it! And I definitely know that the mystery is unknowable...we are much too small to comprehend and I don't have a clue. It's the lower position for me!

    Yeah, follow the money. It is the social manipulation and lust for power that I see lurking in most every human endeavor. Taoist view has the least that I found. So, I think that's what appeals to us both. I think the milder tribal gene we inherited accounts for our skepticism. Or maybe it is just that society has gotten so 'fat and fast' that more of us can't connect.

    Yes, I think the myths don't work so well anymore, so some people go shopping, and others look for meaning somewhere else. Maybe we are just shopping for another myth!???!

    Yes, that is what I see coming over the next centuries. The myths don't match the 'fat and fast' pace of life we've brought onto ourselves - unwittingly of course.

    I guess there's no escaping that, no matter how you are brought up. We all have to earn our wisdom, huh?

    Alas, the circumstances of civilization - especially the comfort and security side of it - have an unavoidable influence of us. It make us neurotic in a way. If I was younger and didn't have a 'life', I'd take the boys on a hitchhiking journey around the world for a decade to open their eyes. Actually, I'd take the whole population of America, if I could. We've become blinded and neurotic by our affluence, comfort, and security. Oh well, I'm glad I'm not in charge!

    Shaking the Foundations of the Paradigm
    I have a mental block towards what you are saying. When I read it, I understand, but when I walk away I loose it. This has happened to me before. It happens when something is profoundly scarey in that it shakes my foundation. In the past, the block has passed but it takes time. I find myself going back and back to what you have written; I am drawn to it. But so far it is like snow that doesn't stick. It lands and melts. Kinda interesting.

    Very interesting! It is an adventure for us both. I'm simply reporting observations is I come across them, or as they come across me. You hear the report and it "shakes" your foundation. That's understandable. What is curious is that you're drawn to back to it. You must have inherited some explorer genes.

    It is my sense that myths comfort us on one hand, but that they also imprison us in an illusion, hiding from us an experience of 'this' - what is. I suppose as long as the myths works well enough, or the fear of the unknown is deep enough, a person would steer clear of 'this'. It could be that the paradigm that has worked up to modern times may no longer offer enough comfort and that we have no choice but to 'bit the bullet'.

    Knowing That You Are Holding On is a Start
    I have some very strong beliefs about universal consciousness, don't I, and whatever you say, it doesn't sink in. But I see that belief and I'm open to the possibility that it may be wishful thinking and that's a start.

    I see how you are 'divided', like with one foot in the paradigm, and the other stepping into the mystery. It is very interesting to watch the journey, both my own and others... yours. My view is that what ever holds a "very strong" in us is symptomatic of our current nature and not actually an objective reality. To see that this may be so, a possibility, is the most important step. It unlocks the door, so to speak.

    How Can Very 'Brainy' (Intellegent) People Buy Into Dogma? Taoism makes you crazy because it gives you nothing to hold on to. My brother, for all his brains, is a Catholic. I can't believe it!

    It can be that the more 'brains' you have the more you need to hold on to a belief to keep sane. The mystery, the void, emptiness, can be very unsettling to the 'brain'. Also, the church is a social... tribal... connection. 'Family' to replace what we lost since we left the hunter gatherer life style and became civilized, i.e., it is no accident that religion really gets established as civilization gets complex and people get to feeling disconnected. Religion is a symptom of our emotional disconnection (and mental too as each feedback to the other). Animals don't NEED religion!

    Pleasure Never Bring Wisdom
    Suffering has the potential to bring you closer to the 'mystery', while pleasure NEVER does.

    Really? Never? hmmmmm. I dunno about that...but I can't think of an example...

    Me neither and I've looked all my life! Pleasure relieves me of the yearning to 'return'. And, for me anyway, it is in the turning back that I find the mystery. Now, the extreme opposite - the suffering - are just plain hell while we are in the throws of it. But, when the dust settles, knowing is deeper than it was.

    Water Is Not Always Peaceful
    Nope, those words really have value to me. I love the analogy of water seeking the lower position. If only I could remember it when I'm in the middle of struggling.

    Yes, but you know water does go over water falls and such on it way down. I look at my times of struggle as being the water fall. Sounds good but that helps little when your tumbling over.

    Suffering Can Wake Us Up
    I am over my resistance. I don't know how it happened. I guess like you say, we just suffer away until it passes.

    Yep. And, a bright side is that the suffering wakes us up, or at least has potential to do so, if we are able to 'let it in', and not drown it out with something. Of course, a little drowning out is healthy too and necessary.

    Resistance is Futile... in the End
    So, I have really had an opportunity to observe resistance to what is! I know if I weren't so resistant this wouldn't be so hard.I think that all I can do is observe the resistance and try to let go of it in the moment. I feel like a child with a temper,no,no,no,no! It's funny, but in really serious situations none of this happens. I just skip the anger and go straight to fear.

    Yes, when it is really really serious it 'wakes' us up I guess you'd say. Your situation highlight the problem I have with all the 'spiritual' presumptions we impose on ourselves and other. I mean we are animals and, well blah blah blah. I'm like a broken record. But, I think the constant realization of that simple view helps me a lot not to get ahead of myself. In other words, to paraphrase Zen view "when it's cold you shiver, when it's hot you sweat... and when you're angry you stew".

    We do get unnecessary anger, fear, stress by way of our expectations (thoughts on how things should be) which animals don't do. But, I trace all of that back to those expectations that make us happy. It is the 'high' they provide that sets the stage for the 'low' we feel when the way doesn't go the way we idealize it should.

    When I resist it helps me to face up to the fact that 1) of course I resist, for that is part of life, and 2) resistance is futile. And then I just suffer away until it passes. The beauty of the Taoist ideal of being like water and 'taking the lower position', is that it carrys the least degree of 'spiritual hype' (at least for me), and so is more accessible as an intuitive feeling of the path to follow. Drip drip down we go. Watch water. It will teach you more than anyone or thing. Well, actually watch anything that is falling, leaves, rain.

    The reason for vacations is to get away from work and people go away because if they stay home, there is always some work to be done. I find that's true--there is always something that needs to be done around here--but, still, I'd rather do it than go away.

    That is the point. Do animals 'work' or 'rest'? People are not comfortable in modern life - emotionally comfortable I mean. It was interesting to see how the idea of a vacation was meaningless to back country third world people I lived among. The more life proceeds at a sane pace with a deeper sense of social connection (and purpose) the more 'work' becomes 'life'. And who is going to take a vacation from life?

    Jobs of Control
    Some people like the power and control a job can bring. I don't think anybody enjoys the stress a job can create, except for the same people who like the adrenalin rush of, say, riding a roller coaster.

    Yes, but it is a minority of people who are into the 'power' I noticed. Those who are tend to get promoted to positions of power. Heck, some bodies got to be in charge! Of course, it is suffering, but those into 'power' don't realize it.

    The nurture/nature conundrum
    Don't you believe that how you are brought up shapes the person you are?

    The only thing, and I mean the only thing, than 'nurture' affects is ones sense of inner security. The less intimate and tribal the family connection was, the more insecure you will be. The nervous system needs that connection, and if it is not available to the extent our particular nature needs, we will grow up to be a bit crazy. And thus we have the crazy world we have, and have had for thousands of years.

    Oh, and of course, the times you are born it determine the paradigm you subscribe to, and the life style you life. Born in Europe you'll likely be a Christian, born in Iraq you'll likely be Islamic... and so on. Caveman lived in caves and knew how to hunt and build fire, modern man lives in houses and drives to work... and so on.

    I think the whole emphasis on the importance of nurture, beyond that which I observe, is that we want to believe that we are in control... we have the power to change and make and do. It is quite ironic that in the one area where nurture is so important we have in fact shrugged off. Oh the ignorance that civilization fosters.

    What is Having Fun
    So extroverts have much more fun at parties than introverts do.

    Yes, and the idea of 'fun' is a curious thing. I mean, it is only when you are not having 'fun' that you yearn for some 'fun' in your life. Same applies to vacations in that only when you are not happy where you are do you want to go somewhere else. Of course, that view wouldn't resound so well in our 'pursuit of happiness' culture.
    Our society pressures people to be outward, doesn't it? It seems just in the past several years I've accepted my introversion as okay, and later, as a gift.

    I think much of the pleasure that folks get from 'going' to work is the social connections there. The less you need social connection, the less of a boost work would be, and maybe just the opposite... depending on what 'going' to work involves.

    Do We Ever Change?
    In my rambling readings over the years (and yes, I agree that reading is just a subtitute for human interaction), someone said that for better or worse, we are stuck with our personality for life - that we are the same person we were in high school. Do you agree?

    Oh, more than that, we are the same person we were born as. Just a little calmer as the years wear us down. And a little more cautious as we pile up a lifelong stack of 'mistakes'. Slowly but surely we learn how to live.

    Mysterious Sameness and Emotion
    I do have emotions, though, and looking at them as part of the mysterious sameness is a new angle I'd like to try.

    The main point about the emotions is that these (this electrochemical energy) orchestrates our responses to stimuli. But, the emotions are not 'us' any more than a finger nail is 'us'. Only a part of the whole 'mysterious sameness'. I look forward to hear how your sense of mysterious sameness unfolds.

    Lifeforce and Survival
    What you said is intriguing and something I've never thought about before...emotion as lifeforce. hmmmmm You don't mean lifeforce as the same as the survival instinct, do you?

    Well, I see ALL emotions as serving the survival instinct. Some pull cooperations while others push competition. So, the next question is, why do we feel the 'need' to survive? It seems that our survival instinct is an 'emergent' property of the more general integrity of matter. That is, atoms hold to certain integrity. Such is the nature of the 'something' side of existence.

    We are always too quick to define things I find, e.g. "the life force is God', probably out of the insecurity we feel by letting our perceptions by tentative. I find it is a lot more fun to just poke around and see what my mind comes up with. The time will pass and I see it from yet another angle.

    Back to emotion... I notice that we 'think' we are rational beings, when in fact it is all driven by emotional needs. But, we don't see that this is so.

    It is Simple... But
    I heard a guy in a meeting today lamenting that life is so complicated and I felt like shaking him, saying it isn't, it isn' are just weaving a complicated web of thought around what is really simple!

    Yes, but alas, we are helpless, regardless of what we think and hope. Part of life as I've noticed, conforms to the Taoist saying, "If you would have a thing weakened, you must first strengthen it..." etc. We've got to go through 'here' to get to 'there'. And there ain't no short cuts.

    I am therefore I am? No, not even that.

    That agrees with what I observe. The essential problem with words is that they all end up as circular definitions (or a sort), which only reflect the way we see life, neurologically speaking... yin and yang. It doesn't mean reality is this way, it is just that our biology is set up to experience reality this way. The 'silly' thing is that we assume that what we think is real, and so therefore as we see below, various folks think we can get to the bottom of what consciousness is, objectively speaking. Ha! In the end ALL is subjective.

    Well, this all gets back to that old life and death illusion. Because our biology make apparent differences so compelling we believe we are perceiving an objective reality. Backing away from that biology a tad and taking it with a grain of salt gives me the 'dimly visible' sense that consciousness is universal. There is nothing that is not conscious, including atoms. It is all just one big happy family.

    Self Centeredness
    Of course, from a cosmic view, whatever benefits me benefits all. That's a good rationalization for self-centeredness. Hey, we're all one anyhow; what's the problem?

    Actually, you are right. Your 'selfish' choice is in the cosmic sense - the big picture sense - the true sense - always will be a benefit for all. For that is the process by which you benefit, i.e., another's loss is your gain, your loss is another's gain. There is so many unrealistic ideals and thus so much hypocrisy aloft to keep civilization afloat that it boggles the mind, mine anyway.

    Learning it Hard Way
    My mind says "Did I perceive a putdown here?" "Am I being treated badly?" "Should I bite this person's head off?" And then the anger and hurt arises and the cycle begins.

    That's it exactly. The mind has nothing else to do but either be mindful of itself (boring) or interpreting external situations that continually pop up. If mind interprets an 'unfavorable to me' slant on the experience, the emotions kick in. Then the mind follows the heat of that 'fire', re-enforcing it with added rationalizations to support the 'me first' bias that initiated it all in the first place. If being mindful of the mind's process was more interesting, each of us wouldn't head down so many by-paths. Alas, we must each learn the 'hard way', eh?

    How Unique are We Really?
    It sounds true that emotions, being brain chemicals are genetic. Then that certain combination of chemicals create pathways through the brain (like ruts) that manifest as knee-jerk reactions to life (the same pathways that allow you to play guitar).

    I also feel that there are instinctive 'roots' common to all of us, but each of us possesses unique, if slight, different combinations and proportions. Then civilization 'brings' out and accentuates those differences. For example, the life difference between a stone age 'Einstein' and a stone age 'Joe Blow' would be nearly imperceptible. Yet, the same genetic makeup in 20th century make one a world renowned scientist and the other a clerk at Walmart. Our circumstances really accentuate the minor to non-existent genetic foundation. I really saw the truth of this on my world ramblings.

    An Example of Free Will?
    You said "One 'solution' to our mind caused problem is knowing what the mind is doing in its relationship with emotion / mood." I've experienced that through awareness, I can experience a gap between stimulus and response and in that gap I can choose whether or not to act. Isn't that free will?

    If you look very very closely at that micro moments of that experience see if you don't notice that you are in fact 'choosing' what feels more favorable to you. The reason you may 'choose' more wisely now is that you have learn the hard way that, yes, 'putting your hand in the fire burns'. Of course, if the by paths of life's experiences actually produced such immediate and clear pain, we would be wise before we could even walk. Choosing what feel to be in one's subject self interest is what is all that ever actually happens. But, this is not the idealized free-will that culture believes in - ours especially, but probably an undercurrent of human belief for the last 10,000 years. Idealized free will is basically an aspect of religious belief - this is the side of religion that even atheist participate in!

    Forgetting is a Sign of Being in the Present... or Not, as the Case May Be
    You also said if we had smaller brains "our emotional turmoil would pass as soon as the stimulus that evoked it ceased." I've found that the more I can live mindfully, in the present, the more I let go of the emotional turmoil from one stimulus and move on to the next. I find that I don't let things build up until I get to the point where I'm exeriencing a "bad day." It might also have to do with the fact that I can't remember anything long enough to let things build up. : D

    I see the apparent decline in memory as more of a symptom of being more present in the moment, and enjoying it more instead of as in youth always looking forward to the next moment and pissing this one away. Three cheers for forgetting! ONE...TWO... now where was I????

    Animals Holding Grudges?
    I was surprised that my goat stayed mad at me for 2 days after we tried tethering him away from the other animals.

    Well, certainly the other animals are equipped with enough gray matter to remember an experience especially tied to an object - you in this case. And goats have pretty big brains as that. Now the ducks, well, it take longer for 'it' to sink in, but they do 'remember', i.e., associate experiences and things. The blessing for them is that they don't have the language.. the 'mind'.. to haul around the memory even absent the stimuli. Which in this case would be the goat SEEING you. When your in side at night and the goat is where ever, it is not dwelling on how nasty 'she was to me'.

    Emotions Rule
    Your general idea is that emotion rules; the intellect, beliefs, and ideologies follow. And emotion is inherited. Only thru being aware of what is going on is there any freedom.

    And emotion is common to all life on earth, from the DNA of a virus all the way up to us. Of course, virus don't get mad or laugh, but they have their own version. You can kind of think of emotion as 'life force', the where with all which each living thing has to survive. We identify those 'forces' as emotion - anger, fear, desire, curiosity, and so on... The brain / mind actually plays a tiny tiny role in the reality of our existence, though because it dominates our awareness, we 'think' it is in charge (free will, choice, responsible, etc.) and knows what the hell it's doing.

    All We Need to Do
    So once again, all there is to do is breathe in and out, stay mindful and present. It's all quite simple, don't you think?

    Yes that sums it up. It is so simple that it seems to escape our notice. Given our big brain we tend to see things more complicated than they are. Of course, that is probably fundamentally do to the emotions pushing on the brain.

    Emotion Rules Mind
    I have experienced that it's more difficult to control my mind when I'm emotional.

    I'd say, impossible. The mind follows the emotions, and unless stimuli is 'seen' as it actually is, it will be interpreted personally... i.e., emotionally.

    Natural Justice
    Do you remember when we were children and a day could last would feel like time was standing still. That changes when you're older, eh?

    I think it is a sign that the older you are, the more you enjoy life. The painful times drag by, the content happy times fly by, no? Darn. How balanced and fair nature is though.
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