There's a race war going on, but it's black on black. This from talk show host Byron Allen, criticizing Al Sharpton for selling out to big media interests: “Why is Sharpton on TV every night on MSNBC? Because he endorsed Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. He signed the memorandum of understanding back in 2010. He endorsed the merger. Next thing you know we’re watching him on television trying to form a sentence. Every night we have the privilege of watching adult illiteracy.” Link.
I recently re-ran across this passage from John C. h. Wu's (the Chinese Chesterton's) The Golden Age of Zen: "The first and second chapters of the Tao Teh Ching constitute the metaphysical background of Zen."
I'm not exactly sure what to think about that statement, since I thought Mahayana Buddhism constitutes the metaphysical backbone of Zen. Perhaps Mahayana is the metaphysical background of Zen? Is there a difference? "Backbone" is a metaphor; I don't think "background" is. But are they substantively different?
Oh well, I doubt it makes much of a difference. For me, the important thing is that it's the playful element of Taoism that transformed Buddhism into Zen, and it's why, of Zen's parents (Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism), I've always found Taoism far more appealing, almost like Taoism is the beautiful nymph that married the ugly man (M.B.), producing a splendid, if flawed, child (Zen).
All that prompted me to revisit the Tao Teh Ching and post these passages. Each deserve some cogitation time . . . or not. You're better off with St. John of the Cross or Avila, but on the lofty mundane level, this stuff is great, right up there with some of the highest Stoic insights (Stoicism being the highest accomplishment of western philosophy before Christ came and gave it all meaning).
Therefore the sage puts his own person last, and yet it is found in the foremost place; he treats his person as if it were foreign to him, and yet that person is preserved.
The highest excellence is like water. The excellence of water appears in its benefiting all things, and in its occupying, without striving (to the contrary), the low place which all men dislike. Hence is near to the Tao.
It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full.
If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.
Who can make the muddy water clear? Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.
Who can secure the condition of rest? Let movement go on, and the condition of rest will gradually arise.
The sage is free from self-display, and therefore he shines; from self-assertion, and therefore he is distinguished; from self-boasting, and therefore his merit is acknowledged; from self-complacency, and therefore he acquires superiority. It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him.
Gravity is the root of lightness; stillness, the ruler of movement.
The kingdom is a spirit-like thing, and cannot be got by active doing. He who would so win it destroys it; he who would hold it in his grasp loses it.
The sage puts away excessive effort, extravagance, and easy indulgence.
He who is satisfied with his lot is rich.
He who knows other men is discerning; he who knows himself is intelligent. He who overcomes others is strong; he who overcomes himself is mighty.
The sage is able to accomplish his great achievements. It is through his not making himself great that he can accomplish them.
Who is content needs fear no shame.
Purity and stillness give the correct law to all under heaven.
There is no guilt greater than to sanction ambition; no calamity greater than to be discontented with one's lot; no fault greater than the wish to be getting. Therefore the sufficiency of contentment is an enduring and unchanging sufficiency.
The farther that one goes out, the less he knows. Therefore the sages got their knowledge without traveling; gave their names to things without seeing them; and accomplished their ends without any purpose of doing so.
He who gets as his own all under heaven does so by giving himself no trouble.
The sage has in the world an appearance of indecision, and keeps his mind in a state of indifference to all.
He who knows does not speak; he who speaks about it does not know it.
For regulating the human and rendering the service to the heavenly, there is nothing like moderation.
The sage, while he never does what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things.
The sage desires what (other men) do not desire, and does not prize things difficult to get; he learns what (other men) do not learn, and turns back to what the multitude of men have passed by. Thus he helps the natural development of all things, and does not dare to act (with an ulterior purpose of his own).
But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second is economy; and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others. With that gentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highest honor.
Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere. Those who are skilled do not dispute; the disputatious are not skilled in it. Those who know are not extensively learned; the extensively learned do not know it.
The sage does not accumulate. The more that he expends for others, the more does he possess of his own; the more that he gives to others, the more does he have himself.
Background: When I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, I was responsible for the "Tremendous Trifles" column. It was occasionally hard to find a sufficient amount of interesting GKC material to fill the page, so John Peterson sent me a file full of Chesterton ancedotes. They were idiosyncratic, historical, and Chestertonian. He gave me permission to use them here. I hope y'all find them as interesting as I have over the years. Most of them have never been published.
Regarding a minor coincidence, consider that the mystery-novelist Agatha Christie once lived at No. 58 Sheffield Terrace in the Campden Hill area in Kensington. Chesterton admirers will recall that his parents lived very near that address at No. 32—the house no longer stands—when Gilbert was born in 1874. In 1880, the family moved to No. 11 Warwick Gardens. The first home for Gilbert and Frances, following their marriage on June 28, 1901, was the house at No. 1 Edwardes Square in Kensington, located on the north side of the square. [George Wil1liams, Guide to Literary London, Batsford, 1973, p. 201 and 328; The London Encyclopedia, Bethesda: Adler, 1986, p. 926]
After linking to that Rod Dreher article yesterday, I Googled him. I used to correspond with him occasionally when we both wrote for Touchstone (he regularly, me whenever I wrote something they liked, which is the difference between an accomplished writer and a writing hack, though the hack often takes far more trouble with his prose than, say, the journalist who has to crank out script for a living).
I was interested to see this passage at Wikipedia: "Dreher is working on another book. He has said on his blog that it will center on "the Benedict Option", the idea that those who want to live with traditional morality should separate themselves to some degree from mainstream society and try to live in intentional communities or other subcultures."
I've been seeing more of this kind of thing. There's Opus Dei, of course, but then E. Michael Jones seems to be proposing a similar thing. There also appears to be a strain of this kind of thinking in The New Evangelization, which emphasizes the need for "little communities" within the parish, which seem to be a combination of bible study/support group/lay order.
It reminds me of the important work of Robert Nisbet, who pointed out that the demolition of communities under the nation-state behemoth was leaving modern man "metaphysically beleaguered." "Values such as love, honor and loyalty," Nisbet said, "do not, cannot thrive in a sociological vacuum." As Brad Lowell Stone summarized in his excellent little biography about Nisbet: "They must be cultivated in groups small enough to instill learning and meaningful enough to the individual to convey to him the profound significance to those values."
Fortunately, I believe nature abhors a sociological vacuum, so people instinctively seek to fill it with society, no matter how hard the federal government seeks to make the vacuum more powerful by taking away more and more local control (relevance).
I started trying essential oils last fall. I'm slowly becoming a believer.
Whenever I use them, good things happen: the inflamed tendon in my ankle feels better after I put peppermint on it, my son's hip that had been bothering him for months stopped hurting when he started carrying and regularly applying the Peppermint Roll-On, my mood lightens when I put the Energy Synergy in the diffuser, I sleep better with lavender.
Two specific pieces of anecdotal evidence: A few weeks ago, Meg and Tess came down with the stomach flu. I put Germ Fighter on the bottom of everyone else's feet on Monday night. I did the same thing on Tuesday night, but Michael wasn't home at the time so forgot to get his feet. The next day, Marie, Jack, Max, and I were fine; Michael came down with the stomach flu. And then last Saturday, my mother was racked wit bronchitis and having a hard time breathing. I brought my diffuser over and put in a few drops of frankincense, peppermint, and lavender. She felt better in less than a minute, so shocked by her turnaround that she asked me to order her a diffuser asap.
Below are Amazon links to the products mentioned above that have worked really well for me.
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So how'd everyone like the eclectic mix of sporadic postings last week? I kinda enjoy blogging that way, but to be honest, it's a lazy way. It's also superficial, but hey, isn't everything I write? TDE traffic neither waxed nor waned during the spasmodic week, so my only form of marketing study didn't tell me much.
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Good Dreher piece at The American Conservative. Excerpt: "A group of liberal Catholics in San Francisco are outraged at Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s directive that Catholic school employees affirm that they will not “visibly” deny or undermine Catholic teaching, including on abortion and homosexuality. Slate‘s Will Saletan, a liberal who disagrees with the archbishop, says the protesters are nitwits."
Catholic Men's Quarterly, a one-of-a-kind general interest men's magazine written by Catholic men for Catholic men. Makes a great Father's Day gift.
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