Amy Putkonen of http://www.TaoTeChingDaily.com has issued a challenge to comment on a chapter of her version of the classic Tao Te Ching each week. She’s renamed the challenge to “Tao Tuesday”. Even though I’ll be posting on Wednesdays, I can’t resist a catchy, alliterative name like that! I’m looking forward to the project, because her version of the Tao Te Ching is one of my favorites.
Holistic Health cares for body, mind and spirit. As you know from previous posts, I’m completely neutral on the topic of religion and/or spirituality. I’m not posting this series because I think you should be Taoist. I just want you to think about your personal spirituality and to have a healthy relationship with it. Only you can decide what spiritual path is right for you. Consider these posts to be leading by example – they are simply sharing thoughts that are meaningful to me, in the hope that it will inspire you to think about the spiritual things that are important to you.
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Tao Te Ching Chapter 2
We experience beauty because of ugliness.
We experience good because of bad.
Similarly, existence and non-existence give rise to one another.
Difficult and easy,
Long and short,
High and low,
The music and the silence.
All cannot exist without the other.
They are two sides of the same coin.
This is why the sage lives by non-action, teaches without words.
All around her, the Ten Thousand Things are created, yet she claims no credit or reward –
So that Tao may flow through her and last forever.
One of my favorite things is to find an idea that crops up independently in widely disparate times and places. When that happens, you know it is a very important, significant idea. And so it is with the relationship between opposites that we see here.
This chapter always reminds me of a chapter from “Crystal Woman” by Lynn Andrews. I don’t know if it is fiction or not…but it doesn’t matter. The premise, I believe, is true either way…
In the book, aboriginal wise-woman Genivieve is teaching around a campfire one night, when she holds up a rusty tin can, and asks them to look at the light and the dark, not the can. If there is no light, we are blind, we cannot see. If there is no shadow, and only light, we are just as blind, and still can not see. Without the interplay of the two, we can’t know either one.
The Tao Te Ching is talking about exactly the same thing. Existence itself comes from an interplay of opposites. You can’t know full without knowing empty. You can’t know yin without knowing yang. You can’t see the light without seeing the darkness as well. It is a truth woven into the fabric of our reality: how our eyes work, an empty cup being filled, a child’s yo-yo toy.
This interplay of opposites can be seen in everything (“Around her, the ten thousand things are created”). The “ten-thousand things” isn’t to be taken literally. It is an old way of saying a number so large as to be incomprehensible, like we would use “bazillion gajillion” today.
From this point of view, it is easier to be tolerant and compassionate. No thing, person or philosophy is 100% good or 100% bad. It is all both, in one proportion or another. WE are both in some proportion. This interplay of opposites itself isn’t good or bad, virtuous or evil, it simply IS.
Without black or white exclusionary judgments, we find black AND white AND shades of gray AND every possible color. The Tao flows and all IS in opposites-embracing beauty.