Friday, September 19, 2014

The Rise & Fall of the 10,000 Tweets

          It's been most of 20 years since I first discovered Lao Tsu's Tao Te Ching. I was in a pretty hippie-dippy lifestyle and mindset, and had all but shunned Catholicism. In short, it jived with me.

          I'm a little bit less of a hippie now than I was then, but I reckon I'm still a hippie at heart and there's a lot about eastern thought that I still dig.

          Whether it was age, immaturity, my daily bong hits for breakfast or a combination of all of the above, it was hard to wrap my head around every thing this text tried to communicate but it spoke to me nonetheless. I love the message in its passages and would be remiss if I didn't mention Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet as cornerstones for helping me better understand the concepts.

          When I finished the last book I was reading and returned to my shelves for the next project I came across my old copy of Tao Te Ching, and although it sat there silent, sandwiched between Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild and D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, it spoke to me again.

          And I couldn't have been happier to see my old friend.

          So I've spent the last two months with it, contemplating its lines, embracing some of its messages, shaking my fists at its simplicity.

          As a whole, the publication is as any other book is and should be: imperfect.

          That doesn't detract from its message, though. I think -- as a people, a chapter in the universe's history -- that so much good could be harvested from the world if we all made an effort to follow a sliver of what Lao Tsu wrote. Like books, I'm far from perfect and am humbled by revisiting these pages and having a greater understanding of my flaws and how I can become a better human being.

          Anyway: Whether it was a good idea or not, it occurred to me that I was nearing my 10,000th tweet and since the elements between heaven and earth are referred to as the 10,000 things, I thought I'd try to condense each chapter into a 140-character-or-less synopsis. There are a few exceptions around which I could not dance, and I should thank James Inman for turning me onto the Stephen Mitchell translation of the text, which I turned to often in this exercise. The results follow.

          I love you people.


One

Speech/ID aren't being, but vehicles of care. W/o want: confusion; w/focus: possibility. W/o light the homonymic roots=obscurity illuminated


Two

B/c of beauty-->ugliness; good's deemed by evil. Sage does not; the 10K things create w/o possession, work w/o credit, forget into eternity.

Three

Don't pedestal talented=strife avoided. Greed: quieted w/gain absence. Shun need=pure heart. Live 4 life, not want. Clear mind=no lure. Undo

Four

Unfull/tapped the Taoan well=ever-replenished. Blunted sharpness/untangled knot/softened glare. Merged w/dust the ageless source in the dark

Five

No sides in the universe. The 10K things=things. The wise=fair; people=just people. Existence=a vacuum w/consistent movement. Stay centered.

Six

Between heaven & earth=an undying spirit, the original mother who delivers (clouded) life -- an available source -- to the 10K things/worlds

Seven

Heaven/earth=eternal, for they weren't born/won't die. Behind but ahead, detached but w/all=the Sage who finds fulfillment via selflessness.

Eight

Acme of good=H2O; natural food 4 even the "unwanted," akin 2 the Tao. Cherish the earth/embrace kindness, truth, justice, joy, & presence.

Nine

Seek balance. Strive for the regard of others & you will become bound to them. Rest upon work's completion & you will travel a peaceful path

Ten
Value body/soul as 1. Be flexible/alert as an infant. Shed the past. Love/lead w/o will. Be open 2 all. Have w/o possessing. Work w/o credit

Eleven

Spokes->wheel; hub->movement. Clay->pot; space inside->use. Walls->doors/windows; they lead outside. Merit: what's there; value: what's not.

Twelve

Color blinds. Tones deafen. Flavors dull. Thoughts weaken. Desire decays. The Sage follows feelings rather than senses; releasing, choosing.

Thirteen

Shame/misfortune=part of humanity. Find acceptance in them & in being unimportant. Don't value loss/gain. Surrender yourself; care for all.

Fourteen

It can't be seen, heard, or held. It's not bright or dark. Approach: no beginning. Follow: no end. Move w/present. Be @ ease n your own life

Fifteen

The Sage: profound, subtle, wise, careful, alert, courteous, fluid, shapable, receptive, clear. Be patient & still w/o seeking fulfillment.

Sixteen (a)

B empty, still, & watch the return of the 10K things as they rise & fall. In growth they flourish, return 2 the source. The return=stillness

Sixteen (b)

Stillness=nature. Nature=unchanging. Constancy=open-mindedness. Open-mindedness=open-heartedness. Open-heartedness=magnificent.

Sixteen (c)

W/magnificence comes divinity. W/divinity comes oneness. W/oneness comes the Tao (the way), which is forever, even after our body dies.

Seventeen

Sanctity=almost unknown. Next: known/loved. Then: feared. Last: despised. Lack of trust->untrustworthiness. Sanctity does; we take credit.

Eighteen

Empty mind=altruism. Knowledge begets feign. W/o peace in family, we have duty, expected respect. W/peace in country, patriotism=forgotten.

Nineteen

W/o holiness/wisdom->increased happiness. W/o morality/justice->increased compassion. W/o imagination/gain->theft would fade. Temper desire.

Twenty

Unlike others I drift, alone, have nothing; am a fool, confused, dim, weak, and dull. Give up learning; end your troubles. I am nourished.

Twenty-one

Elusive, intangible is the way and the greatest merit is to follow the way. Within are image, form, essence, and in the essence, faith.

Twenty-two

If there is a thing you want, embrace its opposite and you shall have. By not doing, brightened becomes the value of all there is to be done

Twenty-three

If the universe cannot make a thing everlasting, why would man think *he* can? Open yourself up to the thing. Be at one with whatever it is.

Twenty-four

Stand firm. Employ a steady pace. Avoid flashiness. Do not be smug, boast, or brag. These pieces of extra baggage do not bring happiness.

Twenty-five

The Tao is serene, empty, solitary, unchanging, infinite, present. It flows through all things, inside and out, returning to the origin.

Twenty-six

The Sage travels all day, unattached & calm in the presence of the beautiful things. He is heavy like light's root, unmoved by restlessness.

Twenty-seven

The Sage cares for all men, all things, abandons none. He respects the teacher, cares for the student. His open mind lets intuition lead him

Twenty-eight

W/man's strength, woman's care, honor, & humility, u can return 2 the state of the uncarved block, be a child again, an example to the world

Twenty-nine

The universe=sacred. It cannot be improved, changed, or held. Ahead/behind, hard/easy, strong/weak, up/down, the Sage avoids extremes.

Thirty

Do -- w/o force -- what must be done. Achieve results w/o glory, boasting, or pride. Results=the natural way. But not through violence.

Thirty-one

The wise uses weapons only when he has no choice. He endears peace & quiet, does not rejoice at victory; that would show delight in killing.

Thirty-two

Undefined, unformed, the Tao cannot be harnessed or grasped. Otherwise, the 10K things would obey, heaven & earth would come together.

Thirty-three

Know others=wisdom. Know the self=enlightenment. Mastering others requires force. Mastering the self needs strength. Stay present, centered.

Thirty-four

The Tao flows everywhere; the 10K things depend on it, return to it. It fulfills w/o claim/is not their lord/does not show greatness.

Thirty-five

Keeping to the Tao keeps one in touch w/universal harmony. Still it cannot be described. It cannot be seen, heard, or exhausted.

Thirty-six

Expand b4 shrink; strong b4 weak; raised b4 cast down; giving b4 receiving: natural perception. Soft/weak>hard/strong; no weapons display.

Thirty-seven

Tao's non-action leaves nothing undone. Were rulers 2 c, the 10K things->natural development. W/o form: no desire; w/o desire: tranquility.

Thirty-eight

Lost Tao=goodness. Lost goodness=kindness. Lost kindness=justice. Lost justice=ritual. Ritual=faith/loyalty/chaos root. The fruit>the flower

Thirty-nine

Sky: clear; earth: firm; spirit: strong; valley: full; 10K things: alive. All: whole. Humble=noble root. Love the parts/understand the whole

Forty

Returning is the motion of the Tao. Yielding is the way of the Tao. The 10K things are born of being. Being is born of not being.

Forty-one

Bright seems dim; forward like retreat; easy way seems hard. Great talent ripens late; highest notes=hard 2 hear. The greatest form=no shape

Forty-two

The 10K things carry yin, embrace yang. Combined: harmony. Ordinary men hate solitude but the Sage embraces aloneness; he's one w/universe.

Forty-three

What has no substance enters where there is no space. The Sage teaches w/o words, performs w/o actions. Too much success=not an advantage.*
            *last line from chapter 39

Forty-four

He who is attached to things will suffer much. A contented man -- he who shuns fame, self, wealth, gain, and loss -- is never disappointed.

Forty-five

The Sage allows things to happen, shaping them as they come. Sidestepping, stillness and tranquility set things in order in the universe.

Forty-six

No greater sin: desire. No greater curse: discontent. No greater misfortune: wanting something for oneself. Know when enough's enough.

Forty-seven

Know heaven/earth thru ur window. See (like the Sage) w/o looking. Work w/o doing. Know w/o travel. The more u know, the less u understand.

Forty-eight

The Sage gains by letting go. To pursue learning=acquisition; to pursue the Tao=dropping. W/less done, non-action occurs/nothing left undone

Forty-nine

The Sage knows others' needs, is good to the good, has faith in the faithful, is shy/humble. Others look 2 him/listen. His mind: like space.

Fifty

Aware of death, the Sage has no illusions of mind/resistances of body. His actions flow from his core. Death awaits, like sleep after work.

Fifty-one

The Tao births/nourishes/maintains/cares/comforts/protects all things. It creates w/o possessing, acts w/o expecting, guides w/o interfering

Fifty-two

Judgment & desire->troubled heart. Seeing the small=insight. Yielding to force=strength. Use instinct & return 2 insight, safeness from harm

Fifty-three

Be aware when things are out of balance. The Sage walks the main road, his only fear straying from it. Stay centered within the Tao.

Fifty-four

Cultivate virtue in your self and you may cultivate it in your family, then your village, which will flow into your nation, the universe.

Fifty-five

Knowing harmony is constancy=enlightenment. The Sage never expects results, avoids disappointment. W/o disappointment, his spirit never ages

Fifty-six

Be at one w/the dust of the earth. In this state, friends/enemies, good/harm, honor/disgrace will leave you untroubled. It is primal union.

Fifty-seven

W/o action, people=reformed. W/peace, people become honest. W/o doing, people become rich. W/o desire, people return to the good/simple life

Fifty-eight

Serve as an example w/o imposing will. Be sharp w/o cutting; pointed not piercing; straightforward not unrestrained; brilliant not blinding.

Fifty-nine

Moderation shows freedom from one's own ideas. Be tolerant, pervasive, firm, supple, w/o destination. Make use of what life brings your way.

Sixty

It is possible to render evil's power so that it will not harm others. Give it nothing to oppose and watch in refreshment as it disappears.

Sixty-one

Obtain humility thru trust & eliminate defensiveness. Realize mistakes; admit/correct them. Identify fault pointers as benevolent teachers.

Sixty-two

Sweet words=honor. Good deeds=respect. Do not abandon the bad. Find & seek; sin & be forgiven. This is Tao, the source of the 10K things.

Sixty-three

Great acts: made up of small deeds. Confront the difficult while it’s still easy. Give yourself 2 it w/o clinging 2 comfort. Problem erased.

Sixty-four

People may fail on the verge of success. Give as much 2 the end as the beginning->no failure. Seek freedom from desire. Don't hold, collect.

Sixty-five

Rule w/o cleverness & u bless the land. Simplest path=clearest. Content w/an ordinary life, u can lead people back to their own true nature.

Sixty-six

2 guide: 2 serve w/humility. Lead by following behind & eliminate any sense of oppression. Stand in front: protect from harm. Compete w/none

Sixty-seven

From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity; from humility comes leadership. Simplicity, patience, & compassion for all beings.

Sixty-eight

By not striving we develop the ability to deal with people. W/o violence, anger, vengeance, and through humility, we forge a unity w/heaven.

Sixty-nine

You gotta sleep on your toes...& then moving in silently, down wind & out of sight, You gotta strike when the moment is right w/o thinking*
            *This chapter seemed hypocritical and incongruous with many of the previous chapters’ lessons, so I figured…might as well throw in some Pink Floyd lyrics that kinda mean the same thing.

Seventy

The Sage's best example of teaching w/o words: to remind his pupils that -- to understand his lesson -- they must look w/in their own hearts

Seventy-one

Knowing ignorance=strength. Ignoring knowledge: sickness. Not-knowing: true knowledge. Presuming to know: disease. Heal yourself of knowing.

Seventy-two

W/o awe: disaster. Avoid intrusion, harassment, interference; you won't wear on others. Know (don't show) yourself. Self-respect>arrogance.

Seventy-three

There is danger in passion, preservation in serenity. Heaven won't direct you; answers w/o words, met needs w/o request, fulfilled w/o aim. 

Seventy-four

W/awareness of change comes a lighter grasp. Know death's certainty and achieve all. Too much emphasis on life=exposure to harm, despair.

Seventy-five

We must devalue the self. When the self becomes too important, people suffer. We must act for the good of people; have faith in one another.

Seventy-six

Man & plant enter life delicate & frail. In death they become rigid & firm. These are analogies of how to spend time in the world; yield.

Seventy-seven

The Sage gives out of limitless wealth. This is done w/o consideration, expectation, recognition, or credit. It is not even an afterthought 

Seventy-eight

Water=soft & yielding, yet solid & strong. The Sage embodies calmness in sorrow's face, protects his heart from evil, helps w/o effort.

Seventy-nine

To hold your own w/no expectation of others, to recognize failure as opportunity, to never think of what's owed=to embrace the Tao of heaven

Eighty (a)

To love labor w/o efficiency, home w/o travel desire. To own stationary vehicles, untouched weapons. To smile in simple clothes and eat

Eighty (b)

plain food. To take pleasure in family & garden, enjoy the neighborhood. To grow old & die w/o worry for the always-greener other side.

Eighty-one


The more the Sage does 4 others, the more he has/the happier he is. This=the fulfilling/effortless work of the Tao that radiates from heaven