Another post for The Rambling Taoists---but you can read it here first:
Do You Have A Choice?
There's been an issue raised over the past day or so in posts by Ta-Wan and Scott having to do with decision, choice, and passivity that has sparked my earth-based yin-respond-to-yang impulse to talk about actually living in the red dust.
In "Yes...But" Scott referred to "the freedom of allowing ourselves to be carried along by things," wondering if Zhuangzi was really suggesting that we be so utterly passive. And Ta-Wan in "Have You Ever Done a Thing?" suggests that we never really make decisions or choices because we aren't selves to make them in any case.
Though my behavior is certainly influenced by how I apprehend the esoteric aspects of Tao (being and non-being, yin and yang, change and material impermanence, etc.), I posed the question to Ta-Wan (but perhaps I should have used the pronoun "one" instead of "you"), "If you really believe this no-self-ness, really act like this, how do you live? Do you take responsibility for your actions, no pleasure in your daily affairs? How can you be employed? How can you raise a child? Love a friend?" And much as I like to meditate on where I was before I was born, I also must contemplate who pays my taxes.
Indeed, the sun and moon do their dance, the tides ebb and flow, the seasons change, trees flower and shed their leaves, the oxygen and hydrologic cycles keep us and our environment vital. As "Taoists" we recognize and honor these things (and as a female, I am perhaps more sensitive to these things than some men). They occur quite apart from our intervention (hopefully, will continue in spite of our intervention). But still, Taoists (at least those of us who have not achieved immortality) are humans affected by ever-changing material circumstances. Through training and deep understanding, we can become well-equipped to respond to situations--make choices-- that do not impede the flow, finding paths of least resistance and conserving energy. (The Tao of Electrical Engineering?) Practices like martial arts and Chinese painting, even qigong, are not passive and involve skill and choice/response. I make that painting; indeed it is impermanent (although looking at Tang brushwork on silk gives one pause in that regard.) I am loathe to destroy it as Tibetan Buddhist monks cast away their sand mandalas, though I understand why they do that. I am also loathe to paint interminable enso's, though I understand that too. (Bamboo and mountains are more interesting and convey complex messages.)
I didn't decide that a dead car battery and a failed waterheater would manifest on the same busy day...requiring the assistance of mechanics and plumbers and mechanics...although it certainly can be argued that intervention through preventive maintenance might have avoided these things. (And getting TAO 61 started was perplexing until we detected a failure of the jumper cables!) I respond to these things with Tao-inspired patience...and decision-making. I dare say the Confucian lost his temper with the fascist condo manager who insisted that our lack of water was not an emergency. Better him than me. I might have pointed out with some rage the manager's ongoing poorly worded "warnings" about delays in a building painting project that has caused much disorder in my personal life. I try to avoid the tendency of the characters in the Asian dramas I enjoy, to sweep things off desks, overturn tables, when they are angry and frustrated. Bad anger management. But this IS life. Sometimes it is disordered. It is likely a yin to yang shift going on. As there is always chaos between dynasties.
Modern humans manage things. Life in a Taoist community, attending to nothing but the condition of one's body and spirit, climbing temple steps to meditate, eating vegetarian food, wandering like a cloud in the mountains, is lovely. I experiment with it from time to time in China. It sustains and heals me. But I always return to everyday life, making a living, engaging with loved ones and friends, trying to live a low-impact lifestyle. Tao is there, it informs my decisions.
The decision before me at this moment? Post or not to post?
2 years ago