Some things chane, some don't. Those things that change according to their natue change cyclically: concception, birth, growth, decline, and death; spring, summer, fall, and winter, flow and ebb. wax abd wane. Human beings are capable of, and fall prey to, unnatural change. We slay our brothers and sisters, we consume poisonous substances, we mistake force for power, our grasps exceed our reaches.
We do not surrender our preferences and we enable our alcoholic relatives. Whoa!
Wait a minute. I'm writing "apples and oranges" here/
But if everything is ultimately One no thing, apples and oranges become fruit, then atoms, and finally, a part of the great mystery.
I have said that when i read the Tao Te Ching in 1975, my whole perspective changed. And that is so, but my emotions and behavior did not change. I remained angry, untruthful, aloof, solipsistic, unable to express love. I was depressed (though that turned out to be mostly neurochemical), and below it all, i was very, very afraid, and especially afraid of relationships. Spiritual reading brought me solice, but it did not connect well to the life i was supposed to be living. I was still capable of shocking the people who cared about me with my inappropriate behavior.
Nine years later Dianne and i went to our second Al-Anon meeting. I immediately understood that i was on to something. I did not call "my higher power" "Tao," The connection between Taoism and Al-Alon was not made consciously nor quickly. But in retrospect, the next five years were a period of spiritual growth in which some things (relationships) changed slowly through struggle. and others (anger) just seemed to slip away on their own beneath my radar.
The twelve step program was formulated by Americans who were informed by Christian symbols and biases. It would be more than miraculous if these cultural and personal contaminants did not enter AA and its offspring programs. Still, a great deal of wisdom got incorporated and a great deal of what was incidental and accidental got left out. True, the "higher power" was called "God as we understand him" -- thus incorporating both the monotheism and genderfication characteristic of hierarchial and patriarchal societies. But we all understood that what i just placed between quotes was a matter of individual choice as each person struggled to change what could be changed and let go what could or should not be controlled. It seems to me now that "Tao" is the near perfect "name" for a 12-step program "higher power."
A lot of the 12 step programs is about surrender and propitiation. Surrender is also important to Taoism. We are constantly reminded that Tao is in charge of nature and that nature is in charge of us. To deny this or oppose it will lead to destruction.
Propitiation is not an idea that i have encountered in Taoist philosophy.* Does this means that repentance and penance ("making amends") is not a part of the world's wisdom, that it is merely part of the trappings or accidental features of many wisdom traditions? I doubt it. Certainly i (and, i think, many others) found the fourth. fifth, eighth, ninth, and tenth steps, along with all the others, indispensable for my "recovery." So, like Laura S.** i needed both the Tao Te Ching and Al-Anon to put my life in order.
* Here i am distinguishing between Taoist "learning" and Taoist "religion." Taoist religion, like all religion, is full of concerns with making amends to gods and ancestors. and to the extent that bad treatment of living persons is offensive to the gods, we should probably make amends to them also. Taoist philosophy suggests that the living owe nothing to the dead except a decent and quick goodbye which often seemed offensive to non-Taoists. The Tao, being impersonal and "ruthless." does not (cannot?) respond to bribes or sacrifices. If we behave correctly (or as the Buddhists might say: "expertly"). our lives will be long and pleasant. Otherwise, not so much.
** 12 Steps on Buddha's Path: Bill, Buddha, and We - A Spiritual Journey of Recovery.