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May 11th, 2011

Reading among the lines of English "translations" of the Tao Te Ching

Here is what happens:
Losing the way of life, men rely first on their fitness;
Losing fitness, they turn to kindness;
Losing kindness, they turn to justness;
Losing justness, they turn to convention.
Conventions are fealty and honesty gone to waste,
They are the entrance of disorder.

Daily Tao - May 11th, 2011

Truth and Tradition (2)

Reading among and between the lines of English "translations" of the Tao Te Ching, i contemplate the tradition of Taoism and the tradition off the traditionalists.

Here is what happens:
Losing the way of life, men rely first on their fitness;
Losing fitness, they turn to kindness;
Losing kindness, they turn to justness;
Losing justness, they turn to convention.
Conventions are fealty and honesty gone to waste,
They are the entrance of disorder
     The Way of Life According to Lao Tsu, Witter Bynner.
.
Daily Tao - May 11th, 2011

Socialization is an inevitable and necessary condition of our becoming adult human beings, or even of becoming children, for that matter.  Socialization is our "second nature,"  yet without it, it is questionable whether we would have any "nature" at all.  Indeed, it is our nature, as human beings, to be the products of socialization.  But we are each socialized within our own family, community, and people, so when we meet strangers they often seem strange.  Often, if the genetic basics being socialized are too variant, these strangers turn up in our own communities, our own families.  When the number of cultural items is rather small, the socialization process probably varies little from community to community.  And gatherer-hunter societies and their members can be profiled on a number of dimensions, including equality, gentleness, intimacy, animism.  It is likely that our species originated at a single time in a single place and shared a single way of life for tens (maybe hundreds) of thousand years before be began to drift apart and start to create separate ways of life with separate languages  which eventually numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

During the past 13,000 years or so.culture and civilization and the exponential increase in artifacts have so changed us that we are barely aware of what we would or could be without these changes.  Our current knowledge and methods of obtaining knowledge leave us with as many questions as answers about our "true nature."  First peoples' (who of course are not the first people) creation stories are all over the psychological and imaginational map.  We came into existence knowing how to live, or the gods taught us, or the animals taught us,  Sometimes we listened well, sometimes we didn't,  Men and women came together naturally or they almost didn't come together at all.  Sometimes the gods or animals who taught were very wise, sometimes very foolish, sometimes we were created quickly, maybe in the "image of god,"  sometimes there were many defective prototypes before a successful model was produced.  Sometimes more than one creator was involved (and you know what they say about committee products).

Anyway, we did learn how to live: humbly, simply, in community, caring for one another, knowing we were part of nature, by and large gentle, unobtrusive , like a model Taoist village, loving our children, respecting our elders, tolerating nearby villages which we rarely visited and even more rarely attacked.

With the coming of economic development also came inequality, indifference to family, power, violence, and, if the Tao Te Ching is to be believed, first "virtue," then "kindness," then "justice," then morality, coercion, tradition and ritual.

The Tao Te Ching always makes a distinction (despite the fact that no distinctions can be made) between true virtue, which emerges naturally from following the Tao and artificial "virtue" which is an attempt to restore some semblance of order (on the elites' terms) after the Tao has been lost.  We are warned that this can't be done.  The artificial "absolute truths" proclaimed by traditionalists are, in fact, one more step on the road to chaos.  This does not mean that traditional religions, especially in their more mystical efforts, are without value.  In fact they are better guides than the novelties we keep coming up with,  But they leave us with the task of acquiring wisdom, in community, and especially, in solitude and silence.

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