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Someone in the last couple of days asked me what Taoists believe.  I don't know what Taoist's believe.  I can only know what I believe.  It's not like we have churches or need people to tell us what the writings mean.  The mental game we're playing here is to figure it out for ourselves.  There is no accomplishment in blind obeisance to someone else's interpretation.  I think I can say that all Taoist are on the same page up to just about here.

The first chapter of the Tao te Ching (loosely, Book of the Way...and yes, we have a book)  tells us we are own when it comes to interpreting existence.  That certainly includes the meaning of the words in the book.  Several parts of the book discuss the futility of trying to teach the Tao to anyone else.  

But I digress...

In the beginning there were rules and potentialities. One of the rules was that some of the potentialities would feel attraction for one another, so they drew together and became stuff, in accordance with the rules of stuff formation. The rules being rather complicated, lots of different kinds of stuff were created. Sometimes some of the stuff would come close to some other kind of stuff and new stuff was created. Stuff creation goes on all the time. That's all in accordance with the rules, of course.

Now some of the potentialities were or became self-aware. Don't ask me how...it just happened. And being bored, they spent their time learning how to control the non-aware stuff. I have no idea how else they spent the rest of their where/when. But I'm sure it was in accordance with the rules governing self-aware stuff.

For whatever reason, which I in my present existence am forever excluded from knowing, some or all of the self-aware potentialities spend some of their where/whens here/now. That is, the potentialities organize some of the stuff of this place/time into the multitude of beings that we see in what we call our world. In other words, they "become" us.

Exactly why they/we decide to come here/now is an interesting question. Perhaps they/we come here exactly for the purpose of finding out the answer to it. Or maybe we come here until we learn a certain amount of lessons about how the rules about self-aware potentialities work. Of course, being the subject of the rules excludes them/us from knowing all the rules (maybe even any of the rules), but by repeated observation of cause/effect, deductions about how the rules work and inferences as to what the rules really are can be made.

Or maybe this is just considered a cool place to visit for an eon or so.

Or not.

Whatever.

The one rule that is absolute is that we can only guess about why we are here. We are not allowed to know.

But while we are here, there are lessons to be learned about Being. I think we stay here until we learn a significant portion of the lessons . . . maybe we even have to learn all of them. Now the lessons are numerous and seem to differ depending on which order you learn them in, the particular configuration of the stuff we have organized, and the other beings we encounter during our time here, so it makes sense to me that one would have more than one go at learning them.

Or not.

You see, we also aren't allowed to know if we are making another run at it. So, for all we know, we may be learning lessons we already learned in another "life."

Or not.

The closure rule, that we can't know for sure about what happened in a previous life or before the potentiality that became us came to this here/now extends to knowledge about what happens to us when/if we learn our lessons. My personal opinion is that there comes a point when we regain a sufficient level of our self-awareness that we learn the lesson of why we came here/now. And once this lesson is learned, we are free to proceed to the next level of Being. And we can then proceed through the door of mystery to whatever that where/when is, if indeed it can even be called a "whatever."

What I do believe is that the door is one-way. Once gone through, the closure rule of this here/now again comes into play. But I do know that I have no reason to fear that door. We go through it at the place/time that is appropriate for us to go through it, because that is indeed what happens.

Or not.

In the meantime, I am spending my time learning the lessons and guessing at the rules. I've learned some of them, I think, though to state them in their entirety is undoubtedly impossible from the point of view of someone governed by them. A few of the more important ones, in my opinion:

[For those of you among our home contestants, the important part is upwards.  But people always ask about some of the things below.]

(1) Helping others is a good thing, as long as we don't give them unwanted help or help that hinders their own personal journey of learning the lessons.
(2) Learning requires interaction with others and interaction with others results in learning. But sometimes it's difficult to determine exactly what we are learning when we interact with others, because we most often don't know what they are learning from their interaction with us.
(3) The harder the obstacle in our life path is to surmount, the more important is the lesson to be learned by surmounting it.
(4) Nothing that is ever learned is useless information.
(5) For anything to exist, so must it's opposite, if only for the sake of being able to compare. There is no sound without silence, no pleasure without pain, no existence without void, no masculine without feminine, no health without sickness, no beauty without ugliness, no life without death.
(6) Hatred is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is indifference. So hatred is not a necessity for the existence of love.
(7) The path of life has no goal. The journey on the path is the point of the journey and the point of the path. The beauty of the journey is not in trying to arrive, but in enjoying the scenery on the way.
(8) Being together is better than being alone. Except when being alone is better.
(9) When the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is not the correct one, then we don't understand the phenomenon [some will recognize this as a version of Occam's Razor].
(10) The only stupid questions are the ones that aren't asked.
(11) Everyone perceives the world differently from everyone else.
(12) Learning why something happens is a worthy goal, but won't necessarily make it happen or not happen or make the result of its happening more or less palatable.
(13) Everything that happens was supposed to happen, because happen is what it did.
(14) Regret is a useless emotion . . . most of the time.
(15) There are no absolutes. Including this one.
(16) No one can make another person feel an emotion. We choose our own emotions. But other people can set up circumstances that lead us to choose emotions we wish we hadn't chosen if they know how to push our buttons.
(17) Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
(18) Truth is easier to remember than falsehood. It will also allow you to feel better about yourself.
(19) There is no such thing as a free lunch. You always have to pay for it somehow.
(20) Life is not a contest. There are no winners and losers. Life works best as a cooperative effort.
(21) What others think about you is not as important as what you think about yourself. What others think about you may, however, cause you to doubt what you think about yourself.
(22) Be proud of who you are. You may be the only person who is. If you can't be proud of who you are, then something somewhere needs to be reexamined.
(23) Apologize when you make a mistake. Everyone, including you, will feel better.
(24) Going with the flow is easier than swimming upstream. Realizing which way the flow is going is the difficult part.
(25) When all is said and done, what really matters is whether or not you are happy.

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 08:35 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Number 24 is sublime (none)
    And on #7

    Ithaca

    When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
    pray that the road is long,
    full of adventure, full of knowledge.
    The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
    the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
    You will never find such as these on your path,
    if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
    emotion touches your spirit and your body.
    The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
    the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
    if you do not carry them within your soul,
    if your soul does not set them up before you.

    Pray that the road is long.
    That the summer mornings are many, when,
    with such pleasure, with such joy
    you will enter ports seen for the first time;
    stop at Phoenician markets,
    and purchase fine merchandise,
    mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
    and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
    as many sensual perfumes as you can;
    visit many Egyptian cities,
    to learn and learn from scholars.

    Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
    To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
    But do not hurry the voyage at all.
    It is better to let it last for many years;
    and to anchor at the island when you are old,
    rich with all you have gained on the way,
    not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

    Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
    Without her you would have never set out on the road.
    She has nothing more to give you.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
    Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
    you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

    Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

    -7.88, -7.74 In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. -- MLK

    by melvin on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 10:55:35 AM PDT

  •  My favorite translation (4.00)
    is by Stephen Mitchell

    My favorite two chapters:

    4

     The Tao is like a well:
     used but never used up.
     It is like the eternal void:
     filled with infinite possibilities.

     It is hidden but always present.
     I don't know who gave birth to it.
     It is older than God.

    31

     Weapons are the tools of violence;
     all decent men detest them.

     Weapons are the tools of fear;
     a decent man will avoid them
     except in the direst necessity
     and, if compelled, will use them
     only with the utmost restraint.
     Peace is his highest value.
     If the peace has been shattered,
     how can he be content?
     His enemies are not demons,
     but human beings like himself.
     He doesn't wish them personal harm.
     Nor does he rejoice in victory.
     How could he rejoice in victory
     and delight in the slaughter of men?

     He enters a battle gravely,
     with sorrow and with great compassion,
     as if he were attending a funeral.

    Lau Tzu for President!!!!!
     

    If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up... - Hannah and Her Sisters

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 11:09:40 AM PDT

    •  There are several translations I like... (none)
      ...usually for different chapters.

      My favorite is chapter 6 for some reason (this version is from the searchable online version, which is actually pretty good and has the advantage of being quite handy):

      The valley spirit never dies;
      It is the woman, primal mother.
      Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.
      It is like a veil barely seen.
      Use it;
      it will never fail.

  •  Feeling Tao'n'Out (none)
    Did you write those 25 rules?

    They are awesome. Listed below are my favorites (just in case you would enjoy the feedback for your considerable efforts):


    (5) For anything to exist, so must it's opposite, if only for the sake of being able to compare. There is no sound without silence, no pleasure without pain, no existence without void, no masculine without feminine, no health without sickness, no beauty without ugliness, no life without death.

    (6) Hatred is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is indifference. So hatred is not a necessity for the existence of love.

    (8) Being together is better than being alone. Except when being alone is better.

    (15) There are no absolutes. Including this one.


    And here's one for you:

    The best religion is disorganized, or put another way, if two people believe the same thing, one of them is wrong.


    It's okay to be a sheep, but not at the wheel. -- Cap'n Pluto

    by Pluto on Sat Oct 01, 2005 at 07:02:33 PM PDT

    •  Sorta, I wrote them... (none)
      ...but many of them are old sayings that I just learned in my life's journey.  But they are (mostly) in my own words and with my own interpretation.

      Thank you for stopping by. :)

  •  Elie Wiesel (none)
    has a quote just like this:
    (6) Hatred is not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is indifference. So hatred is not a necessity for the existence of love.

    All of those say so much.  Another of my favorites is #22.

    Peace,
    Chris

    "I wish the world was run by love, and absolutely nothing more." I'm 19, but I care.

    by eliasjames on Mon Oct 03, 2005 at 09:44:12 PM PDT

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