Highest good is like water. Because water excels in benefiting the myriad creatures without contending with them and settles where none would like to be, it come close to the way.
Water flows. Whenever I “contend” with circumstances, my life stops flowing. I stall and push against today’s obstruction. If I KNOW when I’m doing this, I can step aside and flow around that which seems to be blocking my way. It’s so easy to do, yet so impossible when I get emotionally locked into “contending” with the current ‘problem’. And, in fact, by letting go and flowing around the issue, I’m often able to return later with an easy solution. In my attempt to control circumstances I inevitably contend with them. Nature, like water, follows its own course. When that course is not to my liking, I attempt to manipulate and control it. This all stems from simple the survival instinct which is necessary for life. However, expecting to win this competition with nature only brings pain. I can’t help but contend a bit—that’s life—but, I’m happiest when I let go and follow nature’s course. I cleverly meddle and contend in the hope that I can avoid settling where none would like to be. And where is that? Water flows until it reaches the lowest point—then its flow DIES. Death, in all its forms (failure, loss, emptiness) is what I struggle against.
In a home it is the site that matters; In quality of mind it is depth that matters; In an ally it is benevolence that matters; In speech it is good faith that matters; In government it is order that matters; In affairs it is ability that matters; In action it is timeliness that matters;
Information, data, news… can be a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s how I reflect on information, and not how much information I have to reflect on, that determines what I really discover and know. Quality lies in depth, but I get pulled in with a ‘more is better’ instinct. He who knows has no wide learning; he who has wide learning does not know. [see ch. 81]. These parallel Buddha’s Eight Fold Path. Thus, Right Speech would be good faith in speech, not how articulate the speech. Right Action would NOT be what you do, but when. Timeliness is a ‘stitch in time that saves nine’. This is the essence of duty—not any particular type of action, affair, or speech—but, instead, paying attention to quality. If, in affairs it is ability that matters, why does politics place such an important role? I guess that in human social affairs, it is politics that matters. And that factor is really only upsetting when the politics isn’t going my way! In government it is order that matters, not justice or other humanist ideals. When there is order (economic, social and otherwise), everything else becomes possible. Timeliness in action requires my greatest depth of mind. How do I know which actions to do right away and which ones to be patient with and wait to let nature take its course? The more self honest I am, the more I know when my ‘patience’ is really laziness and my ‘diligence’ is really impulsive desire. When I know my deepest motives, I have some hope of acting with true timeliness; only depth of mind uncovers this. Depth of mind is uncomfortable—especially when what I find within myself doesn’t fit the idealized view I have of myself. It’s easier to cling to ideals and blame anything that doesn’t measure up to them.
It is because it does not contend that it is never at fault.
It’s only when I compare reality with my ideal that I find fault in myself, someone else or something. When my ideals contend with the way things are, I feel distressed and blame that which isn’t living up to my ideal. As we all seem to do this, and it comes so naturally, it must stem from instinct. The more importance I give to an ideal, the more fault I find. This struggle, between what is and what should be, is such a waste of life time. Faults are like obstruction to the flow of nature. This is why flowing water makes such a fitting metaphor for a spiritual life. Obstructions can’t get in the way when you don’t contend with them, but instead just flow around them. Even though I still entertain ideals, my life can flow if I don’t cling to them. The highest virtue I experience is when I’m deeply aware of reality. I feel connected to eternity and a sense of love and appreciation envelope me. I’m not contending and find no fault. However, it’s so much easier to find fault than acceptance. It seems I get drawn into contending and fault finding as a kind of short cut to happiness—which never pans out of course. Being in control, and thus responsible, forces me to contend with whatever doesn’t agree with my plan for how things should be. If I’m in control and responsible, then it’s my fault when things go wrong, and my credit when they go right. Fault and contending/control are two sides of the same coin. The convenient thing about this is that I can hold someone else responsible for conditions and thus have someone else to blame when they don’t go my way.