Those who stand on tiptoes
Compared to the Tao, these actions are unworthy.
J. H. McDonald
He who stands on tiptoe is not steady.
Jane English and Gia-fu Feng
Since chapter 17 the sage has been speaking of self-centered manifestations of behavior and observing the benefits of transcending the selfish bias of the low form of ego which is self-interested, self absorbed, and separated from our common humanity, life, the universe and the Tao.
In these chapters the sage speaks of what we allow to rule us (rulers); what we allow to coerce us (the ways of the people, and societal value systems); and how we individually behave and act.
In chapter 21 the sage remembers the great Tao. It’s a good practice, modeled for us, this pausing from time to time to recall the essence. The sage demonstrates, by example, to remember to first, last, and in between all our personal excursions in this life take the time to remember who and what we are universally, beyond the locality of our personal experience.
In the next three chapters the sage then turns back yet again to observe and address the experience of the self-mind. The sage lists the choices and ways and means and resultant manifestations of the low form of ego which chooses by right of its own free will to inhabit and misuse mind for selfish purposes rather than avail itself of the higher wisdom of the known essence, which it prefers to ignore so long as it perceives itself to be separate, alone, and at risk.
Has anybody else noticed how much chiding there is present in the guidance sages and enlightened ones give us on most spiritual paths? Why so much? “Do this, not that,” the sage informs us. And Christ often admonished his disciples, saying more or less, “No, that’s not it! Gregoreite! Wake up!” Why so much direction?
Because it is the direction, the guidance, we are called to give to our own separated ego.
I’ll confine my commentary on this chapter to those remarks.
I would like to say thank you to you, Louis, for your condolences extended here on the recent passing of my uncle, Dick Griffith. He was quite a guy, Louis. A lawyer, he had the good fortune and mind and ability to rise high in his profession. He argued a case before the Supreme Court, and regarded that as the pinnacle of his profession. A brief description of a few of his accomplishments in the professional realm can be found at: http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2000/11/27/smallb2.html?page=all
I will miss him. I think that regardless of his many worldly accomplishments and attendant opportunities to live a selfish life, he would have embraced this chapter of the Tao Te Ching and affirmed it wholeheartedly.
We shared a lifelong grief in the passing of my father, his brother, at the age of 26. My dad was, as I said in my earlier comment, a person venerated by three generations in the community he grew up in and where he lived most of his life. He earned that veneration by virtue of his extraordinary vitality and passion for life, his ability to connect with others without regard to their station or status or nature, his straightforward honesty, his exceptional mind, good heart, loving ways, and ability to work hard at whatever he chose to do. He went to Duke University to study medicine, decided instead to become a farmer, did so successfully by combining agricultural science into new farming techniques during the early 1950’s, and died prematurely and tragically in a car accident in 1956, leaving his community bereft and his family a world of uncertain ground. My uncle and I carried that loss heavily ever since, in indescribable ways, and that shadow, for better and for worse, was present in all our correspondence and interactions.
I am reflecting on how my uncle would have regarded the sage’s guidance in the Tao Te Ching, and hope to find some answers in a new correspondence with his daughters, one a writer, the other a professor of Philosophy and Religion at the University of London. Their insights in that regard will be interesting, to say the least. I will be glad to share what I learn there as time goes on.
Thanks again, Louis, for your thoughts and prayers. You have my very best regards, and I send my love to you and yours.