The Tao Teh Ching – #27 – Revealed by Lao Tzu – Rendered by Charles Scamahorn

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27

You do not need maps when walking about your home;
You do not need notebooks when chatting about your daily life;
You do not need your fingers when adding one plus one.
A common thought will not be forgotten, and
An obvious secret need not be hidden; yet
Everything may be secure.

When holding to your enlightenment,
You are always good to things,
For things are incapable of violating their nature, and
You are always good to people, for
People are incapable of violating their nature.

Follow the footsteps of those on the path, and
Avoid the wanderings of those not on the path.
Love the sages’ findings, and
Appreciate the failures’ wanderings.
If you do not do both, you will go far astray.
Even if you are stuffed with directions,
Still, you will be hopelessly lost.
Follow this method and you will find the way.

28

 

Where we should search for reality.

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Let me show you how we, that is both you and me, are smothered in an infinity of physical stuff and information! We live on an ordinary rocky planet in a universe of about 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,001 stars (ten with twenty-two zeros after it), most of which probably have planets. Our home universe is really big. A second really big idea! We live on a planet that has had a total of about 100,000,000,000 human beings, each having lived on average about 30 years, and that equals very approximately 94,340,778,000,000,000,000 human thoughts. (100,000,000,000 humans x 30 years average x 31,446,926 seconds per year = 9.4340778 * 10 * 19 = 94,340,778,000,000,000,000 seconds, and we have about a thought per second.).

The idea that we have about one thought per second is based on my simple observation that I can look around and observe clearly about one individual object per second. So … my idea is that the sum total of human thoughts is about the number nine point four with about nineteen zeros after it. Very little of that thought has been recorded, but the sum of thought is like gravity in that we can’t pick out many of the individual events, but the collection of them totally affects our world. The sum of the gravity of the whole universe affects us, and the sum of human thought affects us in a similar way. Each of these two very different things affects our reality and makes us what we are.

Where are we to dip into this vast amount of physical reality and of human thought to find our functional reality? How can we find a form of reality that we can understand and use? Physical reality is relatively easy because it is predictable on the human level and we learn the basics in childhood. Human reality, based on the vast amount of thoughts and learning computed above, is vastly more difficult, and no one can come close to understanding what humanity knows. We as individuals can learn how to find and to understand what we need to know to live our lives, but that means we must somehow acquire the wisdom to know what we need to know. That is why we should seek to follow the Biblical advice and, “Get wisdom, then get understanding.” We need to cultivate the wisdom to look into the future to know what we need to understand. If we can see, even dimly, what needs to be learned we can then take a step in that direction, and thus be closer to what we need to learn, and what we need to do.

One thing is obvious: we need to see clearly where we are at right now and to look from here, right here, toward the direction we need to go. That requires looking into the future, and we have help with that because of the vast number of people who are with us and who have gone before us. We can quickly see from observing other people’s behavior what kinds of actions brought about the results we seek. That is helpful because it helps to refine our goals, and when our goals are clear and our actions are clear, it becomes easier to maintain our motivations to do what is necessary.

We find physical reality in the physical world and human reality in the human world.

What is your purpose in life?

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Today, as part of our self-introduction, we were asked, “What is your purpose in life?” I was given the chance to ponder that for a couple of minutes and thought about answering it with my plans for helping humanity raise its level of maturity. That would have required a couple of minutes of lecture for it to make sense, and we had been asked to condense our answers to a few words. Thus, when it came to my turn to answer, after having heard some twenty-five thoughtful answers, I decided to keep it very short and simply said, “To take another breath.” That seemed like a Zen answer to some people, but to me, it was just to take another breath, pay attention and participate. However, thinking on it a bit, it seemed like a good answer.

Taking another breath is an affirmation of life, a hope for another moment of life, with the underlying sentiment that life is worthwhile. Sometimes the details of the moment are not wonderful, but I live consciously second by second, and if something about this second isn’t to my liking, I change my attention so the next second will be better. My current philosophy is to participate in the second and make it better. When other people are involved, participating usually means conversation, and generally, that is fun and interesting, and even when the conversation is argumentative it’s still a human interchange and a wonderful part of the experience-of-life.

Live every individual second, and if something about that second isn’t wonderful, change your attention to something that is wonderful. If there is no avoiding rotten things, intersperse your consciousness of them with wonderful self-chosen seconds to keep your enthusiasm up and your and flexibility high.

My purpose in life is to participate in the opportunities available.

 

Our American problem is lack of political foresight.

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We need clear forethought to adapt successfully in our fast-moving web-driven world and soon to be CRISPR-driven life-formed Earth. How can we as a society adapt if we can only look at our present problems? Our present problems are the result of past thoughts and actions. When big public things moved slowly, we could think and talk for years about what should be done, because even wars took years to resolve themselves. Not that much was done quickly by the public as a decision, and when public pain came to us at least we had a good idea of where it came from, and could make some appropriate adjustments.

Our current problem is that our democratic system is based on the reactions of our society’s voting majority. It is an inherently slow process that in the past was a protection against ill-considered decision that resulted in rash actions. But, the majority of people are ill-prepared to think about problems that won’t become a catastrophe for a decade or two in the future. The majority of people have little foresight and thus no willingness to move toward distant goals. They have very real present problems that must be dealt with, and thus politicians who represent them only to react to their present painful circumstances. Thus there is no political ability to organize action toward reasonable long-term goals, and political action is limited to reaction to present perceived public problems. Individual thought can look ahead and progress to action, but to get the entire public to move requires reaction, and mass reaction is based on the sum of painful personal experience.

The key to individual life is a quick adaptation to present circumstances, and present circumstances must include some existing personal wisdom and forethought. Public adaptation in a democracy lacks the quick adaptation of an individual because people can only feel present pain, not future pain. They can remember past pain, and thus are able to avoid some problems based on recent conflicts that brought pain, but linking the past to the future, even in the slow-moving past, was difficult. In our present electronic world, it is impossible. Thus our politicians, who are supposed to create policies to help us in the future, are driven by the current public pain that was created in the past because the politicians must please the public, who are locked in the present.

To worsen that already difficult slow-moving public problem, a huge section of this public is locked into self-pity because of their slow response to the realities of our fast-moving modern world. They have fallen into a mine of past desperation in which they are stuck, and from which they refuse to be pulled out, because that is where they functioned well decades ago. They want to go back to the good old days, even though those days were grim, because at least they could survive there. They can not survive where they are, and so they are desperate. You must be able to think about your bleak future to be really miserable in the present.

The first law of life is that the individual and the species must adapt to their present situation or die. And now we must go one further and adapt to the coming situation or soon die.

Get emotionally up and explore your options.

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How you can break free of despair: It is becoming more apparent that people on every level of maturity can be forced by unfortunate circumstances into unpleasant emotional states. It is equally obvious that you can move to more positive states if you know what thoughts to think and what physical actions to take. Taking those positive routes will get you into a better emotional state where you can more easily see and explore your options.

The goal is to get into a frame of mind where you can think clearly, and that is easily recognized because when in that positive state you feel happy and flexible. Most of the time people are thinking about their problems, even when not despairing about them. When meeting people while walking down a street, you can see those who are lost in their gloomy thoughts because they don’t recognize your humanity, and they don’t say hello. Gloom shows in their face and posture too. In that avoidant state of mind, they are unlikely to be exploring options but instead are wandering over negative aspects of their problems, and that is rarely a thoughtful exploring of options.

A person who is exploring options may have a thoughtful, smiling, quizzical look, and they too may not be particularly attentive to their external world, but they don’t look sad or depressed, nor do they look anxious or angry. People who are exploring their positive options look like they are having fun, and they are having fun too because they are mentally choosing between things they want to do. Even though they may be mulling over a difficult problem, their expressions will be similar to those of a person choosing what flavor of ice cream to have for dessert.

It is easy to shift your attention from one of these to another, and it is easy to shift your attention from some gloomy problem to ice cream when the choices are right in front of you. But the more important problem is where to put your attention when you have raised your emotional state to a higher level. Probably there are better things for you to consider for your personal well-being than ice cream. You might be able to shift your attention for only a minute before your stress drags you back to gloom, but in that minute you can choose a more mature goal and set about pursuing it.

If you have some energy for personal growth, try to choose goals that are of the next higher level of maturity above where you are at the moment. If you are in an adolescent “me” frame of mind, consider how you might do something to help your family, or perhaps make your garden grow better, or maybe spend some time finding a new job where you really believe the product will make the world a better place. Each of these types of actions is adult in their world view, and if you can put your attention upon them you will automatically raise your emotional state. The longer you can maintain the more mature form of thought and habit the more you will grow, and the happier you will become.

You grow happier by discovering and practicing your more mature options.

 

How to live forever.

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I am always aware of this moment in time and place, and even when I am thinking about other things there is always some part of my attention that is locked into the here and now. The proof of that simple observation is that I will instantly react to a loud noise, or scratch an itch. These are things of the body as well as the attention, but the body will at some point die, and of the hundred billion people who have lived on this Earth and died, no one has come back and convincingly told their story. It would seem that there should be thousands running about, with many on TV as celebrities, speaking their ancient languages, and telling their stories the way they really happened.

If they could come back, at least some of them would choose to do so. It would be a real treat for them to discover what happened in their distant future, and there would be great celebrity for a traveler from a distant time and place. Some people seem to like that kind of thing, and would do everything possible to come back. Also, there are many people who simply don’t want to die, and would do anything to stay here for a while longer. Queen Elizabeth I is reported to have said something like, “I will give all my kingdom for a little more time.” Probably there are lots of people who would have that sentiment.

That is the crux of the problem, and that crux is located in the present moment. We always are only conscious of the present moment. We may think about other times and places, but our body and mind are always doing so in the present moment. It is our present moment that is our forever. Once we realize that “now is forever”, it makes sense to make this very moment as good a moment as possible. If this is it, let’s make the most of it. And yet, as soon as I write that thought, and think about this moment, I feel bored with it. Channel surfing the TV would be more fun, even though it is meaningless and always leaves me feeling like it was interesting, but it didn’t really make my personal life more meaningful.

Doing something important, something that makes my friends’ lives more meaningful, seems more significant than even a good TV show. Making the world a better place for everyone should be a real joy, and yet most of the time for most people it just isn’t interesting. Why?

How to live forever: Realize that “now is forever”, and enjoy it by participating in the moment.

I don’t expect impossible things to happen.

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About twenty years ago I was arguing with my friend Skip that it was foolish to put money into a lottery ticket. He said that he and some of his buddies each put in a dollar and one of them went over to the local mom and pop store and purchased however many tickets he had dollars. Skip also bet a dollar on his birthday numbers. Okay, so he was out two bucks, but all the same it was millions to one odds that he would win. But he argued it was possible, and that if you didn’t buy a single ticket you didn’t have a chance of winning. Okay, I would say, but the payback on the lottery is about ten percent after all of the various scrape offs were made. But it isn’t impossible to win. Okay, okay it isn’t impossible, but it is extremely unlikely. And there it ended.

Or so I thought. In fact he had a seventeen million dollar ticket in his pocket. It was probably a good idea to wait a few days before turning that ticket in, because it did totally change his life. Any big change is stressful, but winning that kind of money means you must move away from your old friends and cultivate new ones. It is impossible to maintain a friendly relationship between equals when one of them is suddenly a multimillionaire; everything is different and strained.

Well, it isn’t impossible to win the lottery, and I never claimed it was impossible, I just insisted it was a very poor investment. Nowadays, I have friends with whom I argue about things that are even more unlikely to happen than winning the lottery. Some of them are vehemently enthusiastic about what they call their spirit being, an eternally conscious thing, and that they are only temporarily inhabiting their fleshy body. They claim that this experience is only a training ground for something better, and after a couple more fleshy training experiences they will move on to unimaginably better styles of living — well, not living in the usual sense, but something infinitely better.

I support the right of every person to believe and speak up for what they believe, and I don’t contradict people when they say things that I believe are impossible. I do make a sincere effort to see things from the point of view that they are espousing. I ask why they believe they have a permanent spirit, and they say things like, because they have personal experience of previous lives. I ask them how I might gain that experience, and soon there comes talk of a training that will take years, but there are a few books that will help me get started, some of which I have looked through. They are by people who have had experiences, and some are extraordinary, like people who were technically dead, and on life support systems for a week, and then returned to a normal life. I’m not willing to go through that kind of experience to change my beliefs, and I hesitate to trust the thought processes and remembered experiences of someone whose brain wasn’t functioning for a week.

I feel comfortable that I am part of the Universe, and that it has given me life and consciousness, and I am comfortable to believe that those things are natural interactions of the materials of the Universe. They are very special things that resulted in me, but they are no more special than those that resulted in you. Those things are possible and the proof is that we are here, doing what we do. It seems to me that the spirit-world things are impossible flights of imagination, and I am willing to support people’s right to that belief, but…

Believing in a spirit world would conflict with my reality and interfere with my living a tranquil life here and now in this world.

Change the Story Change the Future by D. Korten – book review

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“The fact that we humans seem naturally drawn to know, learn, and create is a source of hope for our common future. We need not know where creation’s journey leads, or whether a final destination is even a meaningful concept. It is sufficient that we discern and celebrate its trajectory toward ever greater complexity, beauty, awareness, and possibility. Our reward for our contribution is the inherent joy of living and the thrill of participating in life’s quest to know, to reach beyond, and to become. Our future is ours to choose. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” That is the concluding statement in this fine book, and one which I really like. If you like that kind of sentiment I highly recommend this book.

Change the Story Change the Future by David C. Korten is a book that creates a path that leads us away from a culture based on money to one with a higher value, maximizing the life force of living beings. He balances bottom-line economics based solely on money against making our world a bountiful place for human beings and all other living creatures. He shows us how our current world is owned and operated by financial robots that move vast amounts of money around at the speed of light. That may make sense for investors trying to game the system, but it is totally devoid of any human motive for making this a better world for humans. It, without the slightest whim of conscience, will destroy anything to make a tiny profit. Money is everything to the robot, nothing else matters! Your life means nothing to the robot if it can show a penny of profit. Korten proposes a Living Economy that:

  • maintains a co-productive balance between humans and nature;
  • provides a healthy, meaningful livelihood for all based on a just and equitable sharing of real wealth; and
  • gives every person a voice in decisions on which their well-being and that of the whole depend.

The book lays out his general plan for implementing the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF RIGHTS OF MOTHER EARTH.

The plan is for creating an idyllic living situation for everyone, but it seems to be based on a technology more in agreement with the lifestyle of the Classic Greeks than our world. That old way might be a more human way to live, but the world population back then was only a hundred million, and now it is 7.5 billion. That is 1/75th our present population, and that would mean 7.4 billion people would have to go. One of the characteristics of the system based on money is it functions to grow the population of consumers; thus it functionally seeks to feed more people. Of course there are limits to how many people the earth can support, and support well, but the financial robot isn’t concerned with that. Just –

MAKE MONEY !!!

The adventure at Red Rock beach.

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UU writers’ group ten minute prompt – beach

I have had some disastrous events on Red Rock’s beach. I mean life-threatening disasters. The Red Rock I’m talking about is in San Francisco Bay, halfway between the city of Richmond and Marin County. It’s an island about twice the size of a large football stadium and about that high. I have been out there over a dozen times digging for Sir Francis Drake’s buried treasure. Needless to say, I haven’t found it yet, but I have nearly gotten myself killed several times in the attempt.

One of the places I was digging was under a large rock, which both Drake and I thought of as Surveyors Rock, perched on the south side of Red Rock, the base of which was about ten feet above the beach. It was dangerous digging there, because at any moment my undermining the rock might lead to its collapse. I had built an escape path to the side so I could run away quickly. My hope was that there would be some crumbling before it came down, and even four or five steps would be enough to get out from under this bus-sized rock, before it squished me.

Red Rock in the San Francisco Bay, CA

The center of this picture shows the Surveyors Rock after it collapsed.

The last time out there, I was in the short tunnel I had been digging — it was about the size of a grave — when some rocks, small pebbles really, came trickling down my neck. I panicked and ran out from under the falling gravel. My thoughts of survival got the better of my curiosity and lust for gold, and I never went back under that rock.

Now, when I go to Google Earth, I can see that the rock has collapsed onto the beach, and huge chunks rolled out into the Bay. Fortunately, without me squished under them.

I am a slow learner, but I don’t go under falling rocks anymore.

What is the meaning of life? Answered.

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The most important thing for someone seeking to probe beyond the veil obscuring reality is to ask unique questions. That is, to ask questions that have never been asked before, or to ask the old unanswered questions, but in a new way. To get an answer that is useful requires that something about the questions be slightly different, because if it’s the same old questions, asked in the same old way, you will get the same old answers.

If you want an answer you must ask your question in such a way that it is possible to answer it. That requires that the question be asked in a way that you have the resources of time, money, intelligence and effort, that will yield a usable result. If one of these is missing it is unlikely you will get an answer, and your efforts will be wasted. Here is an example of how to answer the formerly unanswerable question.

“What is the meaning of life?” It’s a pleasantly short question, but will usually flummox most people because there is something inscrutable about it. The problem is that it assumes there must have been some intelligent being before life existed to have wanted life, and to have created it for some purpose. Perhaps the purpose, the want, was simply to see if it could be done. There is no way of knowing what kind of being could create a purpose for life without somehow being in some sense alive themselves. That instantly falls into to the infinite regress of who created that being, who created the next one, etc…. But …

If we rephrase the question slightly to “What are the results of life?” it is possible to give an answer, and from that answer to double back and formulate a purpose that an intelligent being would intend. Of course, life might have been an accident for the intelligent being, but if that happened then there would be no meaning to life. Life was just an accident with no intended or inherent meaning.

Or, more positively, we could observe the results of living organisms and list the common properties they all have. From this list we could eliminate those which would not have a meaning, that is, those that are artifacts of the living process, but not the meaning itself. The mechanistic answer would be that the end result of life is to convert nonliving matter and energy into action, poop, and babies. The side effects of that process are poop and babies, the poop is the leftover byproduct of converting energy and matter into action and babies, and the babies’ function is to permit the process to continue until access to matter and energy runs out.

The end product of life that can be separated from the essential life process is action. Thus the next question becomes, “If the purpose of life is to create actions, what is the purpose of the actions created?” Those actions come back to creating more babies and poop, but there is the action component that is to a small degree independent of the process. If there is anything to be found that gives meaning to life, other than the fun process of doing it, it is to be found in the leftover actions made possible by life. This super-simplified explanation leads to …

The action of participating in life is the meaning of life.

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