Chapter 1

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

George Carlin once derided the teachings of his native Catholic Church by saying that every time someone asked a question, the answer would be "It's a mystery."  Which he viewed as a cop out.  Unfortunately, I am the kind of person who would agree with that kind of sentiment.  I see myself as a very rational, very skeptical kind of person.  To me, a "mystery" is something which has not been answered yet — not something that cannot be known. 

So, from the very first words of the Tao Te Ching, I am a bit in trouble. But I do think there is hope, though it is slim.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Recently I read a book by Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy.  His "prescription" for happiness, though from Western sources, ultimately has much in common with Taoism.  Bascially what he calls for is a universal acceptance.  First you unconditionally accept yourself, then you unconditionally accept others and finally you accept what happens to you.

This does not mean you have to like everything, but simply accept who you are, who others are and that things happen in the world.  He talks quite about desire and how our desires lead to disappointment.  Ellis says that you cannot as a human eliminate all desires, otherwise you would die.  If you have no desire to eat, for example.  Essentially, Ellis is recommending a variation on the old saw, "if you want what you have, you will always have what you want."

Eliminating desire is difficult for me.  There is someone in my life that I desire intensely, but cannot be with right now.  I have very strong "American" issues with money and the comfort it can buy.  I have a "sweet tooth" for high tech goodies.

But all of that is searching for something that will fill the void, the void that exists at my center.  But what I need to do, rather than trying to fill that void, is to embrace it, to look into it without fear and without desire.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

That is my task for today, my meditation.  To look into the darkness without fear. 

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Filed under General Writings, Self Improvement, Tao Te Ching Translations, Taoism

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