Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Did it Lao Tzu's Way

Many things have been happening in my life. Not the little minute toe-stubbing stuff... more the big bolder falling on the head type stuff. It's not my purpose to write about it here -- just to note that it's been happening.

Yesterday, I was thinking about a long held belief I've had -- probably since being cursorily exposed to the philosophy of Lao Tzu, the originator of Taoism. Though I'm too resistant to dogma to become a Taoist in any strict sense, I do feel that many of the ideas of Lao Tzu hit a big ol' twangin' G chord in my heart. In particular, the central concept from which the name is taken -- The Way, or the Tao; and, additionally, the concept of wu wei, which, oddly enough, is well expressed in the AA Serenity Prayer.

"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can't change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Note that I left God out of it... you don't need God to use this "prayer"... it's more a contemplation than a supplication. In my own life, when things just get crazy hard, it often means that I'm straying off the path... I need to back off a little. Look for serendipity, coincidence, good fitting shoes.

So... here's the thing... after thinking about this yesterday, Dana and I decided to find a movie to watch. Without having any idea of the content of this movie, we decided on "Men Who Stare at Goats." Now... you can take from that movie whatever you want. But it's about The Tao... the current that we swim in, being open to outcome, and accepting destiny. You can fight the current, but sometimes, you need to just float a bit... see where the flow is taking you.

I laughed out loud dozens of times in the movie... but here's what Lao Tzu had to say in passage 41 of the Tao Te Ching:

"Scholars of the highest class, when they hear about the Tao, earnestly carry it into practice.
Scholars of the middle class, when they have heard about it, seem now to keep it and now to lose it.
Scholars of the lowest class, when they have heard about it, laugh greatly at it.
If it were not (thus) laughed at, it would not be fit to be the Tao."

I'm no scholar of the highest class... and popular Taoism is just as far from the ideals set forth by Lao Tzu as is Christianity from the teaching of Jesus, or Islam from Mohammad. But for myself and in my life, a little Tao goes a long Way.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Constitution on Mosques

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Article II, Section 2: "...he (the President) shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

Just last week, Sarah Palin is seen on camera telling an Alaskan woman that she was working to "...elect candidates that understand the constitution."

Today, we hear, a woman who appears to be this same Sarah Palin urging, "Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque?"

Does Ms. Palin not understand the Constitution? Congress is prohibited from making any laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion, and the President has absolutely no power to establish laws AT ALL -- not in the Constitution. He should not offer an opinion... he should simply, as he has done, restate the content of the Constitution. Ms. Palin should take the time to read the US Constitution and stop cynically trying to stir up political controversy.

If I understand the Constitution, then I may not like KKK, but I have to support their right to assemble peaceably, and to exercise their freedom of speech. If I understand the Constitution, I may not like Larry Flynt, but I have to support his right to publish. I'm not a big fan of ANY organized religion, but if I understand the Constitution, then I have to support the right of religious groups to freely exercise their beliefs.

Ms. Palin -- I think you DO understand the Constitution, at least in the fundamental way that I understand the document. I don't think you're a constitutional scholar (Obama IS a constitutional scholar) but you don't really have to exercise the discipline to understand the intent of the authors of the document. NO LAWS REGARDING RELIGION.

Ms. Palin... I think you're just trying to stir up discontent and to appeal to the dark prejudice of ignorance. Somehow you believe this will help your political agenda... it may for the immediate future. But can't you, and the dozens of other power grabbers look at the bigger picture?

I wrote in a earlier blog about this quote, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." This is the bigger picture. Ms. Palin, you are a divider. You and your ilk are destroyers, not builders. You are the problem. You would wreck the car to stop the squeak! I wonder just what you understand at all... test yourself. Do you recognize that quote? Take a little quiet time... think about it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Wheel of Fortune -- America's Spin

About two chapters in to John Kennedy Toole's novel, "A Confederacy of Dunces", the character, Ignatius, cites De Consolatione Philosophiae, considered a cornerstone of thinking following the collapse of the Roman Empire. I had little working knowledge of this manuscript. When I attended school, the Dark Ages were referred to simply as "now." So, I may have forgotten whatever I originally learned.

As a refresher, I turned to my trusted literary authorities: Google and Wikipedia. Quickly, I learned that Consolation was written by the Roman patrician, Boethius, while on house arrest awaiting his execution by axe or clubbing -- the usual stuff of the sixth century. The book is related as a conversation between Boethius and Lady Philosophy. The Lady contends, among other assertions, that "...happiness comes from within." How Un-American... everyone knows that happiness comes from expensive shoes (lots of them), fast cars, rigorous practice of transcendental meditation, the South Beach Diet, and Dr. Ruth.

Another lady friend of Boethius is Rota Fortuna, the wheel spun by the Goddess, Fortuna, to determine fate of an individual -- of course, better known in modern times as the Wheel of Fortune. At the time of his writing, Boethius was imprisoned and awaiting execution... I guess he should have bought a vowel.

The fatalism implied by Fortuna as the arbeiter of destiny appears to have led, through circuitous logic, to the concept of the Divine Right of Kings. This doctrine is hard to argue -- kings rule because they are divinly anointed by God to rule. How do we know this? Because the King says so -- and he must be right, because God anointed him. The King is not subject to the will of the people; the Pope is infallible; it is blasphemy to question the Pope or the King, or even the doctrine that makes it blasphemy to question the doctrine. Some o' them ol' Kings and Popes must have had a good laugh over that one, huh?

All this, of course, is old news... several centuries old. However, this philosophy has found its way into the current political dialog. Why are some folks rich, others poor. Why are there haves and have-nots? Well... it's got to be good old Fortuna spinning her wheel. The rich occupy their position by divine right... or by simple dumb luck. The rest of us should just accept our place and vicariously enjoy the lavish excesses of the divine ruling class.

So... how do these divinly anointed folks keep from getting their heads impaled on sticks by torch bearing have-nots? Is it because the have-nots think somehow that Rota Fortuna is going to land on their lucky number? Or is it because after carefully examining the implications of Boethius' treatise, the have-nots have concluded that they just surrender -- if a divinely appoited one asks for your liver, give him also your spleen, for it was meant to be.