The Path Into The Light Seems Dark

Never could wrap my head around eastern philosophy, not entirely. Our Anglicanness {read Grandmother} and practical salt of the earth Presbyterian ancestors, kind of made it a bit of a hard slog to fully embrace.

Standing now so long downwind from the staid rituals of such things, I am returning for another perusal.

You know, Anglican church services don’t have what one would call philosophies, as belief itself is all that is required for the common folk. Yet, of course, Sunday attendance at some church or other generally is a prerequisite, and belief is implied.

To be honest, I didn’t attend enough of them to really form to strong of an opinion either for or against, to be fair, as my Mother ripped me out of my Grandmothers churchy grasp, after I was returned home after some inspiring Sunday Sermon and told her she was going to hell for not attending with us. She, I guess, didn’t appreciate her 6-year-old exclaiming Mommy was going to hell, and so my attendance dropped to merely funerals and weddings.

Our Mom did not see eye to eye with her own Mother on some topics, this being one of the more contentious, and living right next door to her made for some interesting battles of will.

Anywho, Rumi, Lao Tzo, the Buddha, they’re all knew, and foreign. Been listening to audiobooks, watching docs on the Buddha, and over the last while sort of collecting a knowledge, trying to wrap my brain around it all. Realized, whilst listening to this wonderful reader read Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, or The Book Of The Way, that each is best sampled in smaller bites, not gobbled, but gathered and taken gradually, as they come to you, not all at once.

Layered in, tasting each new word, sentence, idea. The idea of the Tao illustrates well the difference between east and western thought. As in the west our traditions favour rigidity, purity, rules, and vows, in the east they favour ideas, philosophies, and ways of being, I think.

Like how one should enjoy a nice single malt Scotch, like a 18-year Oban, at your leisure, sniffing it gently, swishing it a little before then taking a small sip, gliding across your lips, your tongue and down, each layer of warmth, smokey with peat, maybe a wee caramel finish, tantalizing you to have a bit more, please.

I’ve been gradually living more intentionally, mindfully, going neither backwards or forwards, but inwards. Like weeding a garden, really, learning what to keep and what to take away, and what, or when, to just accept it as it is and to let just be, and not take away to much of the wildness.

True power seems weak.

And ain’t THAT some truth!

Look at Jimmy Carter, who some would say historically was perhaps a lame duck President. However, look at what he’s accomplished in the intervening years. The good he’s done, the strength of his character, the beauty of his humanity, humility, and just good ol’endurance, with his grassroots sweat equity.

This speaks to me of paradox, how true clarity seems obscure, and the greatest wisdom seems childish.

Small sips, small sips.

{ TAOISM IS } the primal principle underlying everything in the Universe, and the way one should follow to attain enlightenment and freedom from suffering.

Then I ask myself, well, why? Why am I fascinated so by these philosophies from so far away? Are they something I can adapt to my life? From a culture so removed from my own? And, how authentic is it for some middle-class 50-something GenXer?

But I realized last night when I was listening to the audiobook that I already have a natural tendency towards some of the philosophy already, instinctively. Yet stilted, in bursts, believing all the while that there was something wrong about me, different. I did not make 5-year life plans, did not have some predetermined direction, career, and as such have often, and agreeably, been lured off, ever since I took those first steps out of my family home to live with a friend at 19.

Now, I’m not so sure if that’s the way to see myself, or my choices, or any of it.

#8 ~~ The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao. In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present. When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

I grew up comfortable in the lap of a middle-class, bog-standard family, with parents who were together, with enough food, love, and all the niceties of a somewhat rural Canadian home.

My Mom, if anything, was too smothering for me eventually, and I longed to taste the freedoms I had tasted at Art School. Longed to get out there and get dirty, play, and fall down on my own.

At BealArt my eyes were opened, and I saw suffering. Families that had so rejected their choices, such as going to Art School, and not Law School, for instance. Kicked out of their homes for something my Mom drove me to with such pride in her heart it leaked out all over the car on that first day when I arrived at BealArt.

Once inside those halls of art I saw around me depression, anger, suicide and heartache, poured onto canvas’, litho stones, sometimes dragged through the light of a camera, or the gentle stroke of a pencil on fine paper, and I felt smaller, less worthy than they, as I had not suffered.

Loved from before I was born, my Mom saw the light of an artistic soul that would never be happy along the same paths as everyone else. Even if she didn’t completely understand, she had the wisdom to see it was a part of me.

BealArt showed me suffering, and of a community of like minds creating honest, powerful, moving, questioning, pieces that laid bare their souls.

The Tao reminds me of “who they { I } have always been”, and I am quite content with an ordinary life. {snips from #’s 64 and 65}

And why am I looking at all? Maybe my soul seeks a peace treaty with suffering, perhaps. It is never the destination that is important, but rather the path, the stops along the way, the sights, the smells. Yet I am but a student, a newbie, and a long way to go.

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