Today’s influences…

Psalms 32:10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.

God help us! Help us lose our minds!
Talking Heads, Slippery People

I read a chapter a day from Proverbs, for 3 reasons… first, I was given this idea by Sam, the pastor at First Baptist of Southside, where I am leaning towards as a home church. The second reason is linked to the first, that is Sam mentioned there are 31 Proverbs, which is enough for one a day for any month.

The third reason is because my grandfather, George Hawkins, who is one of my heroes, spoke very highly of Proverbs as one of the great sources of wisdom. I wish I knew what his others were, as he was very wise.

With that, here’s another influence on me today:

Proverbs 30:

29 There be three things which go well,
yea, four are comely in going:
30 a lion, which is strongest among beasts,
and turneth not away for any;
31 a greyhound; a he goat also;
and a king, against whom there is no rising up.

Stopping here to remind you of a William Blake line I quoted the other day, “The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the Lion.”

Then,

32 If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself,
or if thou hast thought evil,
lay thine hand upon thy mouth.

In other words, its never too late to shut my mouth.

And finally,

33 Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter,
and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood:
so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.

In other words, “don’t start no stuff, there won’t be no stuff.”

And the last one of the day reflects the soft subtle nature of the Tao (or God’s Will, or The Way) and the mixed blessing / curse of free will. (see existentialism or this conversation with my cousin for more) of life, and more importantly, the free will that God gives us to choose our own path.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 51 (excerpt, not the whole thing):

Thus, the Tao gives life to all things;
and its Virtue raises them, nourishes them,
brings them to their full growth,
feeds, shelters, and protects them.

Giving life without claiming authority,
benefiting without demanding gratitude,
guiding without control.
This is called hidden Virtue.

To write love on her arms… a double-minded man… and 3 in 10…

Well, life is changing in a huge way, dramatically, quickly, and after much thought and prayer, for the better – at least in the near term.

But this post is not going there… its going to go in three different directions, and there’s really no seg-way between them that will make much sense, I don’t think.

Really, its just some things I’ve run across today… So here goes.

First, this bible verse is being branded into my brain right now…

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. James 1:8

God is showing me The Way in a way that is impossible to be anything else. The more faith I have, the more I see…

Ok next, this is a pretty cool name for an organization, so it got my attention. I don’t know much about them, so I’m not necessarily supporting them in anything other than principle at this moment.

But on a meta-note, this shows how, although a book may not be read by its cover, a cover can sure encourage the book to be read.

Anyway, To Write Love on Her Arms is an organization that struggles against the forces of depression, addiction, and violence (especially self-violence, such as self-injury or ‘cutting’ and suicide).

Considering the prison systems is the country’s largest mental institution, and considering the homeless and jobless problems we have are wrapped in mental illness, our country has a pathetic mental health infrastructure.

Its not that the people within the system don’t care. We don’t care enough to give them the resources they need. Why? I think its because often, by the time we see someone in full-blown mental illness.

Maybe they’re self-medicated and out of control. Maybe they’re homeless or draining people around them. Maybe they have a criminal record as a result of being poor, in need, and desperate (there are millions of Americans imprisoned on non-violent drug charges that need mental health care, not punishment).

I’m not excusing anyone. Most people, except those seriously mentally ill, know right from wrong. But the system lets people down sometimes to the point of them just not caring anymore.

Or maybe the numbers caught up with them, and they got busted carrying drugs (because often the risk of carrying drugs is worth the benefit of being medicated and stopping the roar)…

Or maybe they’re poor, and don’t have the resources to get out of trouble. Maybe, because mental illness is genetic, they’re families were poor and uneducated, and they don’t know how to develop resources.

Maybe they just don’t know their rights, as Americans, and talk themselves into trouble with a police officer doing his or her job (which they should be doing)…

And of course there are some that are just plain bad people.

But all in all, there are options we aren’t looking at; alternatives we’re not offering; resources we’re not sharing… all because by the time we see someone that’s mentally ill, they are out of control.

Early detection is critical… that’s why I like the organization I mentioned above… they seem to focus on youth, which is critical.

Anyway there’s number 2… I have much more to say but I’ll leave it there to move on to –

3 in 10

This is an excerpt from the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 50:

When going off one way means living
and going off the other way means dying,
three in ten are companions of Life,
three in ten are companions of Death, and
three in ten value Life but drift toward Death.

I like the discussion about those that value life but still drift towards death:

People who are skillful in caring
for the life that has been given to them
travel abroad without fear of wild ox or tiger,
and enter a battle without concern for sharp weapons.
There is no place for the wild ox to thrust its horns,
there is no place for the tiger to put its claws,
there is no place for a weapon to lodge.

How is this so?
Because, there is no place for Death to enter in!

I think I am a former member of this group, making the switch to being a companion of life. So I think I can speak to this second quote. For a long time, I just didn’t feel much fear, or maybe I didn’t feel any fear, of Death.

I was immortal and I lived for myself. But I am slowly beginning to see that I am not here for me, I’m here for others. And I have a purpose, committing to my faith, to God, to The Way.

The Way is simple, it takes care of us, and we take care of others, who take care of us, who get taken care of by The Way… God is good.

So there’s my triple-shot… too much for one day. Gotta run.

Ace in the Hole

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 36

That which is to be shrunk
must first be stretched out.
That which is to be weakened
must first be strengthened.
That which is to be cast down
must first be raised up.
That which is to be taken
must first be given.

There is wisdom in dimming your light.
For the soft and gentle
will overcome the hard and powerful.

Fish are best left in deep waters.
And, weapons are best kept out of sight.

My commentary (for what its worth)

I take this to mean that I must understand weakness to understand strength and become strong. As William Blake once wrote, and I’m paraphrasing I think, ‘to know what is enough, one must first know what is more than enough.’

In terms of personal life, this tells me that strength of character does not come from being loud and aggressive, but from listening more, being more adaptable and open-minded, and having a sense of obligation and duty.

In terms of conflict, this means first and foremost that we must know and understand our enemy’s processes of thinking and acting before we can defeat them. To understand someone’s thinking you must be as intimate as possible with their influences. We must also be as discreet as possible about the weapons at our disposal.

In terms of business, this means (as in conflict) we must know the competition to beat it. Also like conflict, we must keep our hand very close to our chest. If we plan a new product or a launch into a new market, we must keep it secret until the launch. And finally, we must have protected processes and methods that we will not expose under any circumstances.

Most importantly this seems to outline the old poker phrase, gotta keep an ace in the hole.

Tao Te Ching Chpt. 29, tailor-made for me today

Tao Te Ching, Chpt. 29
Whoever wishes to take over the world
will not succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel
and nothing should be done to it.
Whoever tries to tamper with it
will mar it.
Whoever tries to grab it
will lose it.

Hence, there is a time to go ahead
and a time to stay behind.
There is a time to breathe easy
and a time to breathe hard.
There is a time to be vigorous
and a time to be gentle.
There is a time to gather
and a time to release.

Therefore, the True Person avoids extremes,
self-indulgence, and extravagance.

Be Still and Know

Reposted from last week…

Exodus 14:14:

“The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”

Psalms 46:10:

Be still and know that I am God… (Be still and know… Be still… Be…)

From chapter 73 of the Tao Te Ching:

The Tao of heaven is
Good at winning without fighting,
Good at responding without speaking,
Appearing without being asked,
Good at strategizing while fighting.

To just be, in the face of all the chaos, on the path, and know that all is well… ahhh… Everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be, right this minute, and I just have to accept that as truth. I take a step down the path, trying to ignore the fear that would normally paralyze me or send me running.

I breathe, in the moment; I breathe in  the moment. I breathe the moment. I breathe.

When I find the surrender in my heart that shows me the next step, I know the decision is already made. I take another step down the path. I breathe.

Each action is done slowly, methodically, intently, precisely; each decision seems obvious at this pace.  But each moment is so fleeting, I find myself chasing. I quicken my step, and even if just for a second, I’m off course again.

But I’m only off course a little, and this is easily corrected: slow down, breathe, and be. If, and only if, I will do that, I will maintain my walk along the Way. But a small diversion can lead to a greater one. Or a small angle off course can lead to being off a great distance in a short span of time.

For me, the key is to breathe.

Psalms 144:4

Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.

This thought does not make me feel small. It makes my problems seem small. It tells me to keep my mind on what’s most important.

Knowing what is sufficient…

Chapter 44, Tao Te Ching

Which is more cherished, the name or the body?
Which is worth more, the body or possessions?
Which is more beneficial, to gain or to lose?
Extreme fondness is necessarily very costly.
The more you cling to, the more you lose.
So knowing what is sufficient averts disgrace.
Knowing when to stop averts danger.
This can lead to a longer life.

My study of the Tao Te Ching is lifelong… there is an infinity of depth in each line, worthy of meditation. Then there are sets of lines, parts of chapters, that really hit home. Then I try to take all I’ve learned through thought, action, and experience and try to apply the chapter in a way that is meaningful.

“So knowing what is sufficient averts disgrace” is a great line. It is especially true in the context of the concept that attachment necessarily brings loss. If I am not attached to something why then would I grieve over it when it is gone?

I know this doesn’t mean there aren’t things worthy of attachment. But isn’t that the goal, here? To determine what is valuable enough to attach to, fully knowing that when it is gone (and eventually everything is gone) it will cause pain.

So knowing what is sufficient, then, averts disgrace. This is a tough one for me, so I read through.

“Knowing when to stop averts danger” – this one I’ve lived, first hand, and can feel to my roots. “This (knowing when to stop) can lead to a longer life.

It may not, but it can. Danger is not always something we can control. But the risk of danger is something we can manage, by knowing when to let go. Pain, danger, and loss, including the loss of life, can all be a product of remaining attached to something when we know we should let go.

I like to note here there is no discussion of why we hold on… perhaps a discussion of what happens if we do is the best way to approach. Does it matter why we hold on? Can it be for reasons other than selfishness?

We can have, and not be attached. We can live, and not live in danger, because we understand when to let go; when to stop. We know when to do what we know is right, regardless of what we want or think.

We know the path: it is set out in front of us. I know for me many times I have veered from my true path because of attachment. Then there is pain because I am in the wilderness alone, and I learn not to veer too far. Or there’s more pain, and eventually I am forced to let go. Or I lose the way on my path. That’s when danger lurks in every turn.

So keeping my arms around what is sufficient turns out to be all I ever really want anyway…

New Page Posted

I’ve (re)posted a blog from my myspace page, creating it as a new page on this blog. I guess I’ll bring those posts over here, over time, or as they relate. This one just related to what i wrote yesterday so I went ahead and brought it over.

You can go to the top right-hand part of this page to get to the post, but the I’m going to link these posts together so as they fade under the fold over time, or if you’re reading this from the future, it won’t be confusing:

WordPress post:

The Tao of Wholeness

Myspace post:

Christian Taoism

This may be the beginning of a category or theme but for now I’ll leave it here. Enjoy one or the other or both or neither.