Reflections on The Tao Te Ching

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Reflections on The Tao Te Ching When the early Christians had to keep their faith against the persecutions of the Roman Empire, they had -- obviously -- a visible enemy. Once their religion was legalized and established, however, they had new questions to ask concerning who they were, what could hurt their souls and their way of life. Some of them, at least, concluded that the materialism of the dominant Roman way of life was a non-agressive, but equally corrosive force that would destroy them -- not physically, but spiritually. These Fourth Century Christians, men and women, then left their societies and withdrew into the desert to be able to find true "paradise," not in a safe, secure niche in society, but in their relationship with God. That is, they had to escape the values that so comprehensively enveloped them that they could not think or feel clearly about deeper matters. Thus "freed" in the desert, they could know what a full human life was in practice. These spiritual discoveries of a "way" to live, to be, could then be used to challange the complex and tempting materialism that seemed to dominate the culture of the time. In a much briefer, easier, and less focused way, Henry David Thoreau, someone better known to our own time, tried his "experiment" by living for two years in the woods by Waldon Pond in order "to drive life into a corner" and find out just what it really was worth and what it essentially meant. According to Thoreau, people too readily accepted one already established set of ideas or another, good or bad assessments of life, and didn't seek answers for themselves. He too in his course of events wanted to make known what he learned, wanted to "publish," as he said, the essential "goodness" or "meanne... ... middle of paper ... ...ind hits it. Those who by the age of eighteen have thick calendars organizing their too-complicated lives, those who have learned that a branch does not have real meaning, those whose religion tries to teach simplicity but does not get heard ("consider the lilies of the field, they do not spin nor toil, yet Solomon in his glory was not so brightly arrayed") -- can we enter the vision of the writings of one of us who lived 2500 years ago and left the city of confusion to find wisdom? Can we find in the tensions of his writings -- as they are the shapes of the tensions of living in a confused world -- the "way" of life that is most natural? Can we be at home in the universe that produces us and mirrors so readily what we are when we stop and look, wary as those crossing the ice, listening for cracks that might freeze them before they drowned, we see and hear the signs?
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