Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life, Liberty, and Happiness

Thomas MertonThe Way of Chuang Tzu.  Abbey of Gethsemani, 1965.  ISBN: 0811218511.

As I was returning one of the last books I still have checked out from my soon-to-be alma mater's library, I could not help saving some more inspiration from Thomas Merton.  Without commentary (for now), behold:

"The Man of Tao" (pp. 91-92) 
The man in whom Tao
Acts without impediment
Harms no other being
By his actions
Yet he does not know himself
To be "kind," to be "gentle."

The man in whom Tao
Acts without impediment
Does not bother with his own interests
And does not despise
Others who do.
He does not struggle to make money
And does not make a virtue of poverty.
He goes his way
Without relying on others
And does not pride himself
On walking alone.
While he does not follow the crowd
He won't complain of those who do.
Rank and reward
Make no appeal to him;
Disgrace and shame
Do not deter him.
He is not always looking
For right and wrong
Always deciding "Yes" or "No."
The ancients said, therefore:

"The man of Tao
Remains unknown.
Perfect virtue
Produces nothing.
Is 'True-Self.'
And the greatest man
Is Nobody."
"Wholeness" (pp. 105-106) 
"How does the true man of Tao
Walk through walls without obstruction,
Stand in fire without being burnt?"

Not because of cunning
Or daring;
Not because he has learned,
But because he has unlearned.

All that is limited by form, semblance, sound, color,
Is called object.
Among them all, man alone
Is more than an object.
Though, like objects, he has form and semblance,
He is not limited to form.  He is more.
He can attain to formlessness.

When he is beyond form and semblance,
Beyond "this" and "that,"
Where is the comparison
With another object?
Where is the conflict?
What can stand in his way?

He will rest in his eternal place
Which is no-place.
He will be hidden
In his own unfathomable secret.
His nature sinks to its root
In the One.
His vitality, his power
Hide in secret Tao.

When he is all one,
There is no flaw in him
By which a wedge can enter.
So a drunken man, falling
Out of a wagon,
Is bruised but not destroyed.
His bones are like the bones of other men,
But his fall is different.
His spirit is entire.  He is not aware
Of getting into a wagon
Or falling out of one.

Life and death are nothing to him.
He knows no alarm, he meets obstacles
Without thought, without care,
Takes them without knowing they are there.

If there is such security in wine,
How much more in Tao.
The wise man is hidden in Tao.
Nothing can touch him.
"When the Shoe Fits" (pp. 112-113)
Ch'ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere.  His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.

No application was needed.
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right
"For" and "against" are forgotten.

No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.

Easy is right.  Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.
This is really good stuff.  I wish I had spent more time listening as a young man, and less time preaching, but I recognize also that regret is pointless.  Let it all go and do what the situation demands.  There are no demands that cannot be met.  The Tao always takes care of itself: just don't invest heavily in any particular outcome to its evolutions.  Apathy is an amazing psychological (spiritual) tool, unlocking the floodgates of human potential, removing artificial barriers to the Tao that we all carry alive and well inside.

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