POEM: A Lousy Take on Lao-Tse

A Lousy Take on Lao-Tse (Tao Te Ching 38)

When Tao is lost
There is virtue
When virtue is lost
There is
When is lost
There is
Yet oddly
Even when
is lost
Tao remains
The eternal rest
Giving rise to

The Tao Te Ching is the Chinese text of Taoism.  The authorship is attributed to Lao-Tse, which may have been an individual or a group.  There are many English translations of the Tao Te Ching, which seem to differ greatly.  The above poem is my take on chapter 38, which seems to have stuck in my .  I was struck by the truth of the progression, or deterioration, from the ineffable of Tao to virtue, then , then , which is the beginning of chaos, with being the shallowest foundation for life.  While the Tao Te Ching is necessarily perplexing, “the Tao that can be described is not the Tao,” this foundation which escapes our grasp is the very foundation which secures our .  No machinations, , nor any on earth can overturn it or control it.  This irreducible persists as an untouchable in a world bent on holding and controlling way more than called for.  This irreducible gives rise to !

The Tao Te Ching is more of a comprehensive series of hints than a textbook.  I view it as an essential companion for any mystic. Of course, I see mysticism as the of any true .  The Tao Te Ching is very short read, especially when compared to the , the Muslim Qur’an, or especially the Hindu Vedas!  Plus, unlike perhaps most other religions and their texts, a devoted Taoist would probably suggest burning your text at some point!  This speaks of a truer than the all-too-familiar Bibliolatry of .  As a child of , I would heartily recommend the Tao Te Ching as an antidote for many of the imbalances acutely in ’s addiction to scientific reductionism makes us hellbent on focusing on one thing in isolation, pressuring us to ever narrower contexts and ever greater specialization.  Central in the practice of Taoists is complimentariness, Yin and Yang, that the myriad of things that comprise our world, though arising from the of Tao, can only be comprehended by their .  Perhaps the greatest formulation of this in is Jesus’ command to our enemies.  Only by reconciliation with our enemies can we become whole.  Any of the other necessarily degrades our own humanity.  We are defined by our enemies.  If our enemies don’t define us, then we are free, and in accord with Tao.  May it be so…because it is so…

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