Managing the Magic and the Mundane


38. Ritual

Well established hierarchies are not easily uprooted;
Closely held beliefs are not easily released;
So ritual enthralls generation after generation.

Harmony does not care for harmony, and so is naturally attained;
But ritual is intent upon harmony, and so can not attain it.

Harmony neither acts nor reasons;
Love acts, but without reason;
Justice acts to serve reason;
But ritual acts to enforce reason.

When the Way is lost, there remains harmony;
When harmony is lost, there remains love;
When love is lost, there remains justice;
But when justice is lost, there remains ritual.

Ritual is the end of compassion and honesty,
The beginning of confusion;
Belief is a colourful hope or fear,
The beginning of folly.

The sage goes by harmony, not by hope;
He dwells in the fruit, not the flower;
He accepts substance, and ignores abstraction.

54. Cultivate Harmony

Cultivate harmony within yourself, and harmony becomes real;
Cultivate harmony within your family, and harmony becomes fertile;
Cultivate harmony within your community, and harmony becomes abundant;
Cultivate harmony within your culture, and harmony becomes enduring;
Cultivate harmony within the world, and harmony becomes ubiquitous.

Live with a person to understand that person;
Live with a family to understand that family;
Live with a community to understand that community;
Live with a culture to understand that culture;
Live with the world to understand the world.

How can I live with the world?
By accepting.

37. Tranquillity

The Way takes no action, but leaves nothing undone.
When you accept this
The world will flourish,
In harmony with nature.

Nature does not possess desire;
Without desire, the heart becomes quiet;
In this manner the whole world is made tranquil.

For most of my adult life, I have worked on houses.

Built them, remodeled them, restored them, fixed them, cussed them, decorated them, and loved them.

Last week, whilst I was grinding a concrete floor, I got a text from Catfish, who was plastering and painting a wall. Then I got a text from Rarechild, who was happily landscaping a yard.

I paused for a moment to daydream.

With our powers combined, there is no home that we could not build together.

Perhaps someday, we will have one humble house each, a place for breaking bread together, a place for making music, and a place for making art.

All with plenty of firewood for the winter and sticks for the dogs to chase.
Yes. Yes. Let us build this dream into a magical reality.
All things being equal...

Truth is, I was a smarty-pants in school. I was gifted, they told me. Special.

Truth is, I rode the short bus to school. They were all slow, they said. Special.

Each morning and each afternoon, I traveled to and from school with a medley of "disabled" kids. They were my friends. Inevitably, these children were made fun of, laugh at, mocked, and marginalized by our classmates. Even as a child I did not suffer fools lightly, and I developed a taste for bully-meat. I was well liked in school, and smart to boot. I learned to use my high IQ and amicable personality as a weapon against bullies, sometimes subjecting them to psychological brow beatings when I was in earshot of their ignorant hazing.

I wish I could say that I was, and am, a totally passive person. I am not. My parents bequeathed to me a passionate heart, and my capacity for great anger is rivaled only by my capacity for great kindness. I believe in the power of love, but there are some hard-cases out there who, in order for them to appreciate said power, need to have their cage rattled. I'm not encouraging violence, as it were, just a well timed and sharpened tongue.

Egotism has a fondness for hierarchy, which is often likened to power and control.

Humbleness has a fondness for appeasement, which is often likened to sacrifice and suppression.

Neither extreme will do. A balance must be struck, an equilibrium maintained. I put myself neither higher nor lower than any other creature.

This is not something that I practice, this is the core of how I live and breathe.

I do not let others command me, or determine my life. I do not like to be told what to do, or how to live. I do not permit others to possess me or my time. I do not encourage others to regard me as their better or lesser. I do not give others stewardship of my happiness.

I am you. We are not only equal, we are part of the same thing.

And if I am you, then I can never become jealous of myself.
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I might be full of shit, but I know one thing that is true...

You must love with complete abandon. That is the only way.
Start believing this right now.

This will all be much easier, every friendship, every intimacy, every conversation, every exchange with a stranger, when the people I love, which includes you, finally see themselves as I do.

You are fucking beautiful and what you do is amazing.
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Perhaps someday, we will have one humble house each, a place for breaking bread together, a place for making music, and a place for making art.

All with plenty of firewood for the winter and sticks for the dogs to chase.

Yes. Yes. Let us build this dream into a magical reality.

How in the fuck did I miss this two days ago?

Am I to understand that I can draw something, write it, dream about it and learn the way of doing it, and then it will happen?

This is the most lovely insanity I have ever heard of.


41. Following

When the great man learns the Way, he follows it with diligence;
When the common man learns the Way, he follows it on occasion;
When the mean man learns the Way, he laughs out loud;
Those who do not laugh, do not learn at all.

Therefore it is said:
Who understands the Way seems foolish;
Who progresses on the Way seems to fail;
Who follows the Way seems to wander.

For the finest harmony appears plain;
The brightest truth appears coloured;
The richest character appears incomplete;
The bravest heart appears meek;
The simplest nature appears inconstant.

The square, perfected, has no corner;
Music, perfected, has no melody;
Love, perfected, has no climax;
Art, perfected, has no meaning.

The Way can be neither sensed nor known:
It transmits sensation and transcends knowledge.

36. Opposition

To reduce someone's influence, first expand it;
To reduce someone's force, first increase it;
To overthrow someone, first exalt them;
To take from someone, first give to them.

This is the subtlety by which the weak overcome the strong:
Fish should not leave their depths,
And swords should not leave their scabbards.
Excuse me, Self, I didn't see you there...

I was brought up to open doors for other people, men and woman, strangers and friends. As a child, I understood this to be both polite and respectful.

Perhaps it is only a cultural peculiarity, but this act of consideration is rarely met without a...

"Thank You" followed by a "You're Welcome"

By putting oneself behind another in this way, several things happen that are indeed contrary to most of Western thinking:

1) You have shown control over your own self interest, humbling yourself.

2) By humbling yourself, you are now in control of the door.

3) Controlling the door, you have become the steward of safe passage, elevating your position over another.

4) Now, provided you do not slam the person's head in the door as they go through it, you have just removed a barrier for someone, shown respect, encouraged trust, and controlled someone's movement through the world in about 5 seconds flat.

All by getting out of the way.

So here's the interesting, transcendental part:

When we do this for ourselves, when we get out of our own way, we open more doors, remove more barriers, and encourage trust in ourselves for our own safe passage. In the end, we get the control we put aside in the first place.

Learn to get out of each others' way, politely.

Then learn to get out of your own way, in much the same manner.
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Blah blah blah...blah...

I don't even know what to talk about anymore.

Maybe this will help, typing sentences and whatnot.

I suppose I could bend your ear with tales of misadventure in love, how it began, how it went wrong, what I could of, or a particular "she" could of, done better at some critical juncture in the relationship, or how I've never batted an eye at some opportunity to learn more about myself and engage in the glorious bittersweet suffering that is, apparently, the most consistent path to joy and spiritual awakening...

Blah blah blah...blah...

I could, perhaps, express my intimate likes and dislikes, or go on at some length about why I am still wholly monogamous, even as I have developed a flair for the polyamorous...

Would it be classy of me to share how much I love the socks Rarechild bought me...would that help you in any way?

Is it the personal drama that you seek to mirror your own experiences, the "sands-through-the-hourglass" that are the days of my life?...

I don't think I have any answers for anyone but myself, least not answers that can't be found by simply relinquishing ownership and possession of as many things as you possibly can...

I could lead you by the nose to read the writings of a Chinese man that are several centuries old, tell you that in all the pages in all the books I have ever read, I have never found anything so freeing as the eighty-one chapters of observations contained therein...

But I imagine you have enough things to read and enough things to believe in and enough bits of advice being slung your way...

In the end, it doesn't matter what I write; perhaps you read it, maybe you did's all the same to me these days...

If I share my trials and tribulations, there is a chance you will find some connection to your own, but alas, we must still each live our part of this existence in the kind we like best, in our own way, and in our own time...

If I told you how happy I am, how my life is filled with joy and jubilation, creation, hesitation and passion, fear, anger, love, lust, longing, epiphanic moments and hopeful, positive vibrations for the next one...would you wish it were you? Would it sound like your life and if so, well my friend, then we have much bigger work to do than sit around talking about how great our lives are...

One Easter, when I was all of seven or eight years old, I ate all of the white part of six or seven hard-boiled eggs. After breakfast, my Mom told me I had to eat the golf-ball sized green-yellow yolks too. Not being a big fan of green-yellow yolks at the time, I thought the best approach would be to stuff as many of them in my mouth as I could, chew, swallow, repeat, and be done with the whole fiasco in two or three mastications...

Good idea/Bad idea?

Bad idea. Hard-boiled egg yolks are relatively devoid of moisture and I managed to develop a severe case of cotton-mouth in about four chews. By over-correcting and drinking water directly from the tap, I was further able to achieve particle separation of the now chunky-semi-soft-yolks, creating a mixture not unlike vomit in three categories: texture, temperature, and taste...

Well, again, I guess you just had to be there, leaning over the kitchen sink on Easter morning with a belly full of sausages, pancakes, butter, bacon, hashbrowns, whole milk...

Blah blah blah blah...blah.
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75. Rebellion

When rulers take grain so that they may feast,
Their people become hungry;
When rulers take action to serve their own interests,
Their people become rebellious;
When rulers take lives so that their own lives are maintained,
Their people no longer fear death.

When people act without regard for their own lives
They overcome those who value only their own lives.

72. Revolution

When people have nothing more to lose,
Then revolution will result.

Do not take away their lands,
And do not destroy their livelihoods;
If your burden is not heavy then they will not shirk it.

The sage maintains himself but exacts no tribute,
Values himself but requires no honours;
He ignores abstraction and accepts substance.

77. Need

Is the action of nature not unlike drawing a bow?
What is higher is pulled down, and what is lower is raised up;
What is taller is shortened, and what is thinner is broadened;
Nature's motion decreases those who have more than they need
And increases those who need more than they have.

It is not so with Man.
Man decreases those who need more than they have
And increases those who have more than they need.

To give away what you do not need is to follow the Way.
So the sage gives without expectation,
Accomplishes without claiming credit,
And has no desire for ostentation.
Just after the World started again, I cracked my knuckles, straightened my chin, hitched up my britches, and got my ass to work in an attempt to let go of the pathetic desire to have someone else prioritize my life for me and tell me what to do next.

Life has never been about easy answers, but I need to start asking myself different questions.

Excuse me while I bare my part of your soul. It is all I can grasp at just now.

I have done many things and I have been wrong about some of them. I have measured my successes in different ways and by different scales at different times. I have trusted my head and trusted my gut and I feel like I just flipped my trusty wooden nickel and it landed on the edge this time.

Yeah, it doesn't make any sense to me either, but I'm not apologizing for it.

Sometimes it feels like I'm two hours from everywhere but where I am.

If I could speak to you of all the things that trouble my mind, speak to you in the safest way I know, you would no doubt read, no doubt listen, being the incredible human being that you are.

But there would be nothing to listen to, no words to read.

There would only be the visual vocabulary of my mind: boats and anchors, old toilets with their fouled up plumbing, unicycles trying to find their place in the World, bowler hats beckoning nickels and pennies, effervescing brick facades of closed up theaters and old shoe factories, and questioning fish that balance on a corporate ladder, and discharge pipes clogged up with old ideas that failed to pass muster, among other things.

When you got done looking through this eclectic pile of randomness, you would no doubt have questions.

And I, in love with your humanity, would do my best to try and answer.