Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Tao te Ching pie

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

Tao te Ching, Stephen Mitchell translation

Meei Fenq, my Taiwanese friend, just left my house where we talked as we drank our customary tea and made apple and blueberry pie. I meant to ask her the Taiwanese views of Taoism, but I forgot. I just enjoy being with her very much. Our submissive, soft mannerisms are similar which she received from her culture, and I received from my mother. (Her husband says I'm different than other American women which was a compliment? Although, for myself, I know I need to be more assertive at times!) Meei Fenq and I talk about our life's purpose with career and family. We exchange cultural information, and we eat a lot of seaweed. She just left some Korean, seasoned, flaky seaweed for me. Yum! I brought a huge container to my class last year during our unit on China, and only six students liked it. The rest of them made a show of gagging and spitting it into the trash can. I told the six that somehow we were the same type of people. Strangely, most of those six were my favorite students!
There's been an Asian theme in the air recently. We rented "The Last Samarai" this weekend, and the noble calling, the return to equilibrium in nature, and the emphasis on looking within for strength were the highlights. It caused me to want to find my Tao Te Ching book and read some of the inspiring verses (such as the above). What is it about eastern spiritualism that I like?
I think that it's because it resonates with the cycles of nature, it uses beautiful imagery, and it makes good, helpful living sense.
Some of my Christian friends would probably find this to be counterproductive and, in some ways, dangerous. However, I am not a disciple of anything that doesn't have the Personal (the Thou as Martin Buber says) within it. I am entirely devoted to the Christ story because it speaks both to my head and heart in an irreplaceable way. A valid relational way that I never, ever want to end again. I am, though, impressed by the spiritual focus and benefits that other belief systems, such as Taoism offers, because I believe that they tap into the same root that grounds me. Native American spiritualism does this as well. The root of Creator. The root of Other than myself. The root of love. Materialism pales in comparison to any of these honest attempts at finding truth. Many of my Christian friends are partnered more with materialism than with Taoism. It's a focus, not a label. It's an interest, not a belief system.
Anyway, I too believe that as humans upon this earth that we must look/investigate/mine/understand other belief systems in order to understand our own choices better. I want to know how we all experience the spiritual strains that are part of this earth. I want to sift and know which ones correspond more with my views (in this case, Taoism, Buddhism) and the ones that I see more as politically manipulative and oppressive (Hinduism, Muslim-Islam). I must be informed instead of arrogant and narrow, and this information helps me discern and know what pathway is for me. And, choosing a spiritual pathway is an important part of human existence. And, it helps me know what others experience in their choice. I feel obligated to know, like it's an expectation of some sort.

So, therefore, I can look at the Tao te Ching, and appreciate and respect some of its wisdom. Yet, even while looking at it, it appears partial to me because my experience seems fuller somehow, embodies more, and I can minister towards that.
Recently, I read an excellent book called "A New Kind of Christian" which speaks to the subsequent question of heaven/hell and who goes? It suggests that it is no one's business at all who goes to heaven and hell, and the focus should be on the here and now. The question should be nothing except the head/heart knowledge which you know that can be explained if asked. Nothing more. Too much has been shoved. Too much has been lost at the expense of self-importance, oppression. I liked that book and its postmodern views very well.
That's all for now on this theme....I must clean the sublime pastry crumbs which splatter my counter. Au revoir!

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