Friday, August 5, 2011

Thomas Merton: 'The Birth of Man'

"Is there to be found on earth a fullness of joy, or is there no such thing? Is there some way to make life fully worth living, or is this impossible? If there is no such a way, how do you go about finding it? What should you try to do? What should you seek to avoid? What should be the goal in which your activity comes to rest? What should you accept? What should you refuse to accept? What should you love? What should you hate?"

-- Thomas Merton --
("Thoughts On the East," p. 16)
"The whole world recognizes the beautiful as the beautiful, yet this is only the ugly; the whole world recognizes the good as the good, yet this is only the bad.
     Thus Something and Nothing produce each other;
     The difficult and the easy complement each other;
     The long and the short offset each other;
     The high and the low incline towards each other;

     Before and after follow each other.
Therefore the sage keeps to the deed that consists in taking no action and practices the teaching that uses no words.
     The myriad creatures rise from it yet it claims no authority;

     It gives them life yet claims no possessions;
     It benefits them yet exacts no gratitude;
     It accomplishes its task yet claims to no merit.
It is because it lays claim to no merit
     That its merit never deserts it."

-- Lao Tzu --
( "Tao Te Ching," Verse II)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Taoism emphasizes balance. The feminine balances the masculine; rigidity balances suppleness; the yin balances the yang, and because of this everything returns to a certain equanimity, to the ease of being that lies in the center.
When there is an imbalance the world does not recognize the beautiful as beautiful, the good as good, or the bad as bad. Yet this is bound to be temporary, for everything is bound to return to the balance of equanimity that is the nature of the Tao. 

We are, it would appear, in a world that is out of balance; thus, as so many wisdom traditions note, we are in the process of returning - in this instance, returning to a center where there must be harmony between yin and yang, between man and nature, between the manifest and the unmanifest.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
"What the world values is money, reputation, long life, achievement. What it counts as joy is health and comfort of body, good food, fine clothes, beautiful things to look at, pleasant music to listen to."

"What it condemns is lack of money, a low social rank, a reputation for being no good, and an early death."

"What it considers misfortune is bodily discomfort and labor, no chance to get your fill of good food, not having good clothes to wear, having no way to amuse or delight the eye, no pleasant music to listen to. If people find that they are deprived of these things, they go into a panic or fall into despair. They are so concerned for their life that their anxiety makes life unbearable, even when they have the things they think they want. Their very concern for enjoyment makes them unhappy."

"The rich make life intolerable, driving themselves in order to get more and more money which they cannot really use. In so doing, they are alienated from themselves, and exhaust themselves in their own service as though they were slaves of others."

"The ambitious run day and night in pursuit of honors, constantly in anguish about the success of their plans, dreading the miscalculations that may wreck everything. Thus they are alienated from themselves, exhausting their real life in service of the shadow created by their insatiable hope."

"The birth of man is the birth of his sorrow."

-- Thomas Merton --
("Thoughts On the East," pp. 16-17.)

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