Some say “love” is their favorite word. Others say “God” is. I’ve also had favorite words over the years, but “why” beats them all. So I ask myself, why continue posting these observations? It’s certainly not for money or fame. I actually prefer anonymity. In fact, years ago when my yoga students showed hints of guru worship, I went out of my way to discourage that. Do I just need to vent? Well, there was some of that urge early on, but I have most of that off my chest now. So why continue?
One reason is the art and challenge of it. My most intriguing observations pop into my mind during my morning yoga headstand, while soaking in the bath, and in dreams during the night. I suppose that’s the art of it. Writing them well enough to resonate with someone else is the challenge. I don’t suppose this is any different from playwrights, for instance, who dream up scenarios and write plays. Posting my observations is like putting on a play… way, way, way off Broadway, of course. At first glance, I suppose that answers why I continue to write. Yet, “why” lingers on. “Why” would linger on, of course. It is the deepest existential question of all… and ultimately unanswerable, at least from a Taoist point of view.
The question mark-like graphic for this post is the graphic I made for my first serious attempt at writing in 1976. My wife says the poems in the essay are her favorite part. Well, at least they help lighten it up. If you want to read that first attempt, go to: http://www.centertao.org/media/Why_First-Writing-1976.pdf.
As I ponder that first attempt, I realize how this process allows me to record and then rethink my observations. This sort of analysis helps me figure out life. Of course, all this is mostly reinventing the wheel since what I discover is essentially rediscovering what others have discovered throughout time. To me, that says the path to truth is universal and awaits anyone hungry enough to make the journey… an endless journey, I imagine.
It is interesting to see how much my thoughts have changed over time, yet not in some fundamental ways. At first, I started placing an (X) when I really wished to disavow the dumb idea I had back then, with an eye to updating it. Then I realized, what has changed over the 40 years is not anywhere near as important as what has remained more of less constant. Therefore, I have left it as is, except for attempting to correct spelling.
The major change between then and now is my shift away from an advocacy of free will towards mysterious sameness. Still, if you believe in free will, you may find the essay speaks to you, but again, keep in mind that it comes from where I was 40 years ago when I thought A Practical Way was merely a matter of free choice.
Curiously, my son Luke said my writing back then was better than now. I can’t really believe that is true, as I’ve worked so hard over the last several decades to write as well as possible. Then it occurred to me that when one intuitively knows what a writer is saying, that writing would tend to feel well written and vice versa as well. (See, We only understand what we already know, p.254.) My A Practical Way is easy to understand, straightforward and written with a righteous flavor similar to the Bhagavad Gita, which I read daily.
Below is the essay’s introduction. It gives the flavor of my thinking back then.
* * * * * A Practical Way to Eternity * * * * *
I wrote some poems to give delight
While reading about my spiritual plight
You’ll probably see I’m too uptight
Well, here is the Way I make it all right
I fought and thought and wound my mind too tight
Broke the mainspring and saw the light
I wrote this essay so all of you might
Also decide it’s better to put up a fight!
Most of us humans spend our whole lives finding fault with the “condition” of the world, marriage, government, job, life, and so on. We expect everyone to do the right thing and become annoyed when they don’t i.e. Nixon as president, communist repression, wife’s overspending, children’s misbehavior, worker incompetence, capitalist’s spoiling the environment, permissive society or too restrictive one, and so on. We insist on everyone doing their “best”.
However, when it comes to taking care of, improving, nourishing our own body and mind, of ridding ourselves of the imperfections in our own personality and life, then we all of a sudden become very tolerant of faults and laziness.
How can we ever honestly expect the outside world to be any different when we aren’t even willing to do our best for our own “inner world”? The “inner world” is one thing, the only thing, we really do have a chance to control and improve. Indeed, without the “inner world” what do you have? Death!! And those who care not for the “inner world” are living a “life in death”.
An improvement in your inner world improves the whole universe by a small degree, depending on the extent of improvement. Buddha improved his to a high degree and so had a big effect on the world. If we all did our best for our inner world, the outer world would take care of itself easily.
Therefore, we must cease blaming and finding fault with the “outer world” and do what we can for the “inner” one. I wrote this essay to help you and me towards this goal.
I knew ‘eclectic’ but never looked into its roots, which I just did, and found them deep. Clearly, eclecticism has a small ‘t’ Taoist and not-tribal nature.
Wikipedia say, “Eclecticism was first recorded to have been practiced by a group of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers who attached themselves to no real system, but selected from existing philosophical beliefs those doctrines that seemed most reasonable to them. Out of this collected material they constructed their new system of philosophy. The term comes from the Greek “ἐκλεκτικός” (eklektikos), literally “choosing the best” and that from “ἐκλεκτός” (eklektos), “picked out, select”.
There is a mythical bird in ancient Vedic / Yogic tradition that flys about and only “chooses the best” from the crap lying all around. Does anyone out there know this bird? Alas, I have long forgotten its name, but I have used it as a model since I first read about it (I am a notorious name forgetter!). I just tried to google it; it is a needle in the haystack.
Thanks for this essay on your inner world. I too am always trying to find, expand, clarify my inner world. For 2012 I am reading a verse of the Tao each week then writing my thoughts, etc. in a blog. http://sarahdoyle13.blogspot.com/. I found your blog because I was searching to see if anyone else is doing the same. I believe God/spirit/divine whatever you want to call it is found in eclecticism, thus my eclectic ramblings. Keep on writing, we are always better now than we were before…unless we aren’t.
Good point Matt by taking it back to those cave men paintings. And, I certainly feel like I was born about 30,000 years too late! Ah, but the dentistry is a lot better now
Why did cave men paint simple yet extraordinary images on cave walls? We all feel a sense of wonder at things of beauty, the things that defy our ability to describe by familiar names. If there is an irony to your art, it is that you attempt to use familiar names (words) to “paint” the nameless beauties that captivated you. I have wandered by this website for a few months now and wanted to post for the first time to express my gratitude for your efforts.