Monday, October 19, 2015

Thoughts on the Tao Te Ching 18


When the great Tao is forgotten,
goodness and piety and appear.
When the body's intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.


Once again, paradox lies at the heart of the Tao.  The above poem is seemingly, or at face value, contradictory.  As Oscar Wilde once said: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Goodness and piety in the above poem are looked upon as lesser, more superficial qualities than the wisdom that comes from the Tao.  Piety, uncoupled from just actions, is simply hollow and even hypocritical. Goodness that is self-serving and egotistic is certainly not loving kindness.  When the wisdom of the body is forgotten, even ignored, cleverness and knowledge come to the fore.  Cleverness smacks of striving either to impress the hearer or of attempting to ridicule his arguments.  Filial piety is merely respect out of duty rather than out of real respect for the person as person.  Patriotism often emerges from conflict and chaos and even bloodshed.
Unusually shaped tree, Newbridge House, Donabate, Co Dublin


Read over the above poem reflectively and allow a word or phrase to strike your imagination.  For five or ten minutes use that word or phrase as a mantra for a brief meditation.

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