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 morality
When morality is lost
There is propriety
Yet oddly
Even when
Awe is lost
Tao remains
The eternal rest
Giving rise to awe

The Tao Te Ching is the ancient Chinese sacred 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 mind.  I was struck by the truth of the progression, or deterioration, from the ineffable unity of Tao to virtue, then morality, then propriety, which is the beginning of chaos, with propriety 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 hope.  No machinations, cruelty, nor any power on earth can overturn it or control it.  This irreducible hope persists as an untouchable in a world bent on holding and controlling way more than called for.  This irreducible hope gives rise to awe!

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 heart of any true religion.  The Tao Te Ching is very short read, especially when compared to the Christian Bible, the Muslim Qur’an, or especially the Hindu Vedas!  Plus, unlike perhaps most other religions and their sacred texts, a devoted Taoist would probably suggest burning your sacred text at some point!  This speaks of a truer reverence than the all-too-familiar Bibliolatry of Western civilization.  As a child of Western civilization, I would heartily recommend the Tao Te Ching as an antidote for many of the imbalances acutely present in modern society.  Western civilization’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 unity of Tao, can only be comprehended by their opposites.  Perhaps the greatest formulation of this in Christianity is Jesus’ command to love our enemies.  Only by reconciliation with our enemies can we become whole.  Any demonization 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…

POEM: Revolutions Violent

Revolutions Violent

Any revolution
That must dispose of enemies
Remains
Mirrorly
A turning
Of the tables
Going round
Not with standing
How grate thou Art
And wore
A game that can only
Play you
Fraught with duel intentions
That two-sided sored
Giving rise to dark knights
In the theaters of life
Gone batty by our blindness
Convinced of our sound mind
Squealing beyond any hearing of just us
Re-lying on eary reflections of reality
A doody-full radar responding to this MASH
Efficiently allowing for corporeal punishment
Beyond the mountaintops
And promised lands
MLKing our hopes
With bullet points
Only outlining
The gravest of matters
In chalk
Where truth lies
And faux canons
Turn on
US

Violence begets violence.  Violent revolutions must declare violence inviolate, seeding the next violent revolution.  What goes around comes around.  Playing God with war ends up in us being played.  Violence and killing demands the denial of another’s sacred worth.  This truth is the first casualty of every war fraught.  The drums of war are beaten with solemn speeches, truth-challenged bullet points, and faux demonization.  The myth of redemptive violence lays the bloody groundwork for violence in all forms, providing the easy cover of necessity — “you made me do it.”  As the theologian Walter Wink puts it, “The myth of redemptive violence is the simplest, laziest, most exciting, uncomplicated, irrational and primitive depiction of evil the world has ever known.”  Unfortunately, these unsound canons always turn on us eventually.  Of course, taking responsibility for our own actions, and our own dark impulses, may be even more difficult than making others pay for our shortcomings with their lives. Yet, as I like to say: peace may cost as much as war, but it is a much better deal!

Real Test of Power to Prevent War

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War--PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Peace Quote Buttons.

This peace quote reverses the typical notions of power.  Power is typically viewed as the ability to make things happen.  That is certainly true in the context of the capacity to make war.  However, the power to exert brute force and coercion is very different from the type of moral force is needed to build and sustain peace.  Morality, in its essence, is about restraint.  By contrast, amorality is simply having no restraint or limits on one’s actions.   Thus, when comparing the capacity to make war versus the capacity to prevent war, or to create peace, these concepts of power tend to clash.  War is hardly an exercise in restraint.  While war may require a lot of discipline in many respects, it requires unleashing incredible brute force that by its very nature cannot be controlled.  One simply has to recognize the reality that for every combatant killed in wartime, approximately ten non-combatant are killed.  Clearly, war is not a precise surgical procedure, despite all the talk about smart bombs and laser guided systems.

As the United States is beating the drums of war against Iran, there is talk about the right thing to do, the moral thing to do.  Of course, most of this talk is couched in terms of all the evil, bad, or immoral things that some other parties are doing.  Sort of by default, morality is imputed on people who oppose such evil doings and evil doers.  Unfortunately, what is lost in the mix, mostly of lies, is that morality is more about restraining one’s own behavior than about restraining another’s behavior.  By losing our focus on our own behavior, we can drift dangerously close to the unaccountability needed in order to wage war.  If you think war-making requires restraint and discipline, try peacemaking and loving your enemies.  The difficult task of taking personal responsibility for one’s behavior both as an individual and as a citizen of a nation can be costly.  However, there seems to be an  inertia in the human condition that defaults to blaming others for one’s own problems, and shifting the cost of relating to one another as human beings to other people that we see at fault.  Even if I have a relationship with someone where a conflict or “problem” is 20% mine and 80% theirs, this does not relieve me of being accountable for my 20%.  Rather than taking care of our own moral business and accountability, we often feel justified in focusing the blame and the full costs of the conflict onto those we see as enemies.  It is impossible to successfully wage war without demonizing one’s enemies.  This is the only way to justify killing a combatant.  This is definitely the only way to justify killing non-combatant.   Show me a nation that can create peace in the face of potential war and I will show you the most morally powerful nation on earth.

Homosexuality Prevents Abortion

Homosexuality Prevents Abortion BUTTON

Homosexuality Prevents Abortion BUTTON

Homosexuality Prevents Abortion BUTTON
This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like
T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker
sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

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Gay Political Buttons
.

I like this cool design because it deals with a crossover of issues.  Also, it ties together two seemingly unrelated issues, but when combined the two issues create a delicious cognitive dissonance among right-wing religious folks.  Homosexuality, or any sexuality for that matter, is an issue that seems to pique the interest and even outrage of many conservative religious people.  About the only other issue that can peak such passion is abortion.  While homosexuality and abortion are not generally tied together, they are tied together by the issue of sexuality.  However, when homosexuality and abortion are tied together, particularly with the proposition that homosexuality prevents abortion, there are surely some people in their right-wing mind with smoke coming out of their ears.  Of course, it may be impossible to determine exactly whether the smoke coming out of their ears is the inability to compute such a logical juxtaposition, or whether they are just mad at having to be challenged on one or the other of these issues, or worse yet, both of these issues at the same time.  Both homosexuality and abortion are issues among right-wingers that are almost irresistible to parody, because of the almost complete demonization of their opponents on either of these issues.  Thus, posing that accepting even one of these issues may help ameliorate the other issues breaks through the crusty armor of this demonization.