Archive for September, 2013

Daring to keep low

September 16, 2013



Meditation 67


Everyone under Heaven

Acknowledges the Tao to be great,

But odd – peculiar.

That’s the way of it.

If it weren’t so strange,

It would have been found out long ago.

I have three treasures that I value deeply.

One is mercy.

One is temperance.

One is daring to keep low.

Compassion engenders courage.

Temperance allows for generosity.

Humility gives birth to leadership.

Courage without compassion,

Generosity without temperance,

Leadership without humility:

These lead to death.

Compassion wins wars,

And protects defenders.

It is the weapon of heaven.


Last week my boss played a George Carlin skit on the US invasion of the Persian Gulf.  Twenty some years later and it’s still relevant.  At one point, Carlin says he’s not moved by yellow ribbons or flags.  He leaves symbols, he says, to the symbol-minded.

Such symbols don’t move me either.  What has nationalism ever done for me?  But there are symbols that do.  I have a book that ties each tarot card to a meditation from the Tao Te Ching.  Meditation 67 was the reading for my first card I turned Saturday morning, the King of Wands. 

The spring and summer have felt like a battlefield, with my feebly defended territory taking the largest number of hits.  I lost my car, tended a very sick cat, saw the ending of my closest friendship, and now am looking for a new home.   Because I’ve made a conscious decision not to acquire unnecessary wealth, these hits have seemed even harder, being forced to battle them with fewer resources.

My ego finds it difficult to accept the ways of others.  “Look at that person,” it whispers.  “She’s not as smart as you tell yourself you are, yet she has a new car, she goes on vacations, she isn’t defenceless when her lease isn’t renewed.  Who’s the smarty now?”

One definition of humility is accepting that one does not know all the answers.  It has taken me, will take me, all of my life to unlearn everything I think I know.  But I like this translation’s definition of humility as well:  daring to keep low.   

Some might not find it much of an accomplishment.  That our culture values a different public profile is constantly apparent.  But fame, celebrity, wealth — all these separate people from one another.  That’s not to say that solitude, obscurity, and poverty do not.  “But the wise spirit knows/ That one rebuked by the world/ Is fit to rule.”

So I’ll keep to my odd, peculiar ways, daring to keep low, if only because the majority of human endeavor seems unbalanced in the other direction.  And because I find that the few times I’ve emptied myself of desire, detached from the outcome, what I need flows to me.  Actionless action.  Already a window has opened.  Perhaps there is a destination awaiting me.

As for Carlin’s symbol-mindedness:  flags and yellow ribbons — don’t they remind us of how we differ from others?  We’re Americans, we’ve been victimized, we’re protecting “our own.”  When I read my tarot cards, throw the I Ching, meditate on the chakras, or read a horoscope, what fills me most is an awareness of how we are all similar, that change is inevitable, and that we all draw our inspiration from the same universal source as we engage in our various struggles under the Sun.