Bringing Others along for the Ride
Why do I do this? I just became friends with a very nice lady from Bucharest, Romania who saw my page. She loved the many pictures and what she read here. It is as Lieh Tzu and Bob Dillon say… The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. She said it made her smile and gave her the feeling of seeing beyond her difficulties with a young daughter and two elderly parents who both have been diagnosed with cancer. We talked for a long time and it gave me joy. After liking all my pictures on FB, she said she thought I had found my mission. Well, if that means leaving a little of myself along the Way, then I guess I have. As I wonder and ask…. how do we try to live up to the expectations we have for ourselves. Isn’t this where we sometimes get lost in our own inertia.
As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend and look back on his legacy, we give thought to his mission and divine presence, and how far we have come since his own immortal words… and ask ourselves if we too are bringing others along for the ride and living our own version of the dream.
First in his “I have a Dream” speech, and later in April, 1968 saying “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord“. Then he was gone and Bobby too shortly after.
As we recall this, we are reminded of the music we heard back then. It helps us to remember those times of hardship as we continue to travel to find our own mountain to climb. Collectively in the world, as a country, and as individuals, as we too look to the Promised Land, the Way of Virtue, that already exists in each of us we have overlooked thinking it is something outside ourselves. When what needs to be overcome lies within us.
Rather simply a challenge we can’t see through, or lack of courage to open the door to the great I AM that we can then walk through. We often ask ourselves why life has to be so difficult and how we, as the Beatles sang, get by with a little help from our friends. Just as there are no accidents, music at times serves to show us the way. Like the Beatles song that they rode into our lives with all those years ago simply saying., “I want to hold your hand”, then saying “She’s got a Ticket to Ride”. Well we wanted a ticket too. John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “A Day in the Life”. Paul’s “Yesterday” with the lyrics, all my troubles seemed so far away, and “Let it Be”, George’s “Here comes the Sun”, and Ringo’s “Yellow Submarine”. Bob Dillon’s genius… “Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, “Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright”, and personal favorites, “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times they are A-Changin”. What makes the Beatles and Bob Dillon’s music timeless, even immortal, is that they spoke directly to our own hopes, dreams, and fears through their own and quite ably brought us along for the ride too. All great music, art and literature does this.
Why do we study literature and history, other than to see past visages of ourselves as we express our virtue through love and our relationships with others? The essence of what the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. was telling us as we remember him now.
Even in China, Confucius was famous for updating the five Classics of Chinese history, one was the Book of Odes, which included the music and poetry handed down for generations that proceeded him. It is as if in remembering who we were back when, that art, music and literature helps to remind us that we too are universal and helps to define and monitor who we are yet to become.
We spend time in the great museums and art galleries of the world to obtain a greater appreciation of what… how they viewed the world in time and to see and imagine what others might have left behind. Monet impressionist paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC are among my favorites where I have visited many times. To see and know where they were going and in turn, connect again with our own past.
Through a bit of serendipity, I stayed at a bed and breakfast in London for a book fair a few years ago. It was a block from the British Museum. Spending time there with history as a historian, reminded me of the places where I have been and being there changed my itinerary… as if I was reminded of times well-spent . As I too am re-living history through my own life and writing.
Our appreciation for the above comes with an acknowledgement that they serve to assist us in becoming whole, seeking transcendence, and that it encompasses us when we seek and find our own highest endeavor. It is why we celebrate the lives of those like MLK and others. What is it that great opera, Mozart and Beethoven, and for me – Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Lao and Chuang Tzu, Confucius, and what so many others do? They take us to heights and places to where we would not otherwise go or might have forgotten. To only God knows where. Perhaps to a preview of our own mountaintop and the other side.
Maybe they are here to remind our soul how to sing again and know that what we struggle with today, is not meant to be the final stanza of the song we are here to write and play for ourselves and others. To find our stride, our gait, and yes even our own kung fu, once we have found our way as we too prepare to go. Their role simply to get our attention. Ah… the first job of any great teacher.
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 22, the addendum to 22, and Verse 23, appear below. Verses 1 through 21 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance can be found under the Taoism and Lao Tzu tab here on my website. Verses yet to appear here in my blog have not had additional commentary added yet.
Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.
Thoughts on becoming a Sage
Verse 22 – On Becoming Whole
When all has passed through you – everything becoming the same with no opposites pulling at your attention, then you are free to follow the way of virtue.
When you can think and act as if innately following the Tao, you can become whole.
Knowing virtue and honesty are one, you make a list of those things not in keeping with the path you have chosen to follow and begin removing them, as they have become stumbling blocks to completing your endeavors as the sage. Once encountered and accounted for, they disappear and cannot be traced back to their maker.
Continually redefining the role of the traditional sage. Mirroring the Tao, you become adept at sharing your vision instead of simply trusting the word of others. Instead of relying on the strength of others, you take all to otherwise unattainable heights through reluctantly displaying your own strength.
Your enthusiasm and vision carrying the day. Living in paradox, as in reality you prefer to remain hidden from view. You stand apart, not competing hens no one finding a foothold to compete with you. Remaining steadfast you become whole. ##
Chuang Tzu says, “Lao Tzu says everyone else seeks happiness. He alone saw that partial becomes whole.” (33-5).
Wu Ch’eng says, “By exploring one side to its limits, we eventually find all sides. By grasping one thing, we eventually encompass the whole. The caterpillar bends in order to straighten itself. A hollow in the ground fills with water. The renewal of spring depends on the withering of fall. By having less, it’s easy to have more. By having more, it’s easy to become confused.
Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Only those who find the one can act like this. Thus ‘less means content’. The reason most people cannot act like this is because they have not found the one. Thus ‘more means confused’.
Verse 22 Addendum – Becoming a beacon of light for All to see
Could it be that your ultimate role is to report back to the dragons the role of the sage in the here and now?
To take the thoughts of Lao, Lieh and Chuang and all the others to places they have not been before and to perhaps try them on for size in a different environment.
That it is not you becoming whole, as much as transitioning this ancient way into current thought and action. As your task remains internally to mirror the Tao, perhaps your role in the here and now is to rediscover for the ages how externally one can remain pure and whole in such a material world. Keeping to eternity’s promise, but making limited appearances just the same.
Challenging the order of the day, you have become the ultimate agent of change and virtue.
Coming forth to claim your place in the universe, you accept the mantle placed upon you with an ever present humble demeanor. As you prepare to move on to accept your greater destiny. ##
Li His-Chai says, “The reason the sage is able to be chief of all creatures is because he is able to hold onto the one. Holding onto the one, he never leaves the Tao. Hence, he doesn’t watch himself but relies instead on the vision of others. He doesn’t talk about his own strengths but relies instead on the strength of others. He stands apart and doesn’t compete. Hence no one can compete with him”.
Hsuan-Tsung says, “Not watching himself he becomes whole. Not displaying himself, he becomes straight. Not flattering himself, he becomes full. Not parading himself he becomes new”.
Tzu-Ssu says, “Only those who are perfectly honest can fulfill their nature and help others fulfill their nature. Next are those who are partial”. (Chung yung: 22—23)
Verse 23 – Defining True Objectivity
Finding yourself in the scheme of things so that there is nothing coming from you except the natural extension of the Tao.
Remaining quiet and speaking in whispered tones so that someone must strain to comprehend what is being said thereby confirming they are paying attention and listening. Letting the natural order of events simply occur with events just waiting in the wings to change what has become comfortable.
Remaining natural, or neutral in effect, your endeavors simply an extension of the Tao. The Way means knowing both success and failure and using them to become one. Becoming one by leaving yourself behind to rediscover your true nature ultimately simply a seamless extension of the natural order or scheme of things, as you remain one with the universe with your objectivity leading the way.
If you have looked beyond what success and failure may bring, you can begin to know the proper way! ##
Wu Ch’eng says, “Whispered means not heard. ‘Whispered words’ means no words. Those who reach the Tao forget about words and follow whatever is natural.”
Su Ch’e says, “The sage’s words are faint and his deeds are plain. But they are always natural. Hence he can last and not be exhausted.” Ch’eng Hsuan-Ying says, “If the greatest forces wrought by Heaven and Earth cannot last, how can the works of man.”
Te-Ch’ing says, “This verse explains how the sage forgets about words, embodies the Tao, and changes with the seasons. Elsewhere, Lao Tzu says. ‘talking only wastes it / better to keep it inside’ (5). Those who love to argue get farther from the Way. They aren’t natural. Only those whose words are whispered are natural. Lao Tzu uses wind and rain storms as metaphors for the outbursts of those who love to argue. They can’t maintain such a disturbance and dissipation of breath very long. Because they don’t really believe in the Tao. They haven’t learned the secret of how to be one.”
Chiao Hung says, “Those who pursue the Way are natural. Natural means free from success and hence free from failure. Such people don’t succeed and don’t fail but simply go along with the successes and failures of the age. Or if they do succeed or fail, their minds are not affected.”
Kongdan says. “To proceed as if unaffected by what happens around us. For myself this is the ultimate challenge, the paradox living brings to our doorstep every day. How could one write and internalize the above and proceed as if you were not confident of the Way.”