Saturday, February 20, 2010

81 Days of Tao: Verse 1

With roughly 81 days left in the semester, I plan to ruminate on each of the 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching with the hope that I will emerge in May a more balanced, peaceful soul.

Verse 1:
The Tao that can be told is not the
eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the
eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of
heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the ten
thousand things.

Ever desireless, one can see the
Ever desiring, one sees the

These two spring from the same source
but differ in name; this appears as

Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

I realize the contradiction (and impossibility) of attempting to interpret the tao in words when it defies such definition.  Rather than go stumbling into that futility, I will point to the moments that have held it for me.  It is something between an endorphin rush and that moment just before sleep.  It's looking out across the land, street, neighborhood, and seeing it for the first time after you've traversed it for years. It's the right turn onto Scott Blvd. from Muscatine when I could see the cornfields unfold in the distance and knew that Dinah was waiting for me to return home.  It's when the perfect song comes on the radio -- one you've never heard before, but the one you needed to hear. 

The song at the top of this post is just such a song. The lyric that touched me: "it must taste like peaches eaten by the road side."

On Superbowl Sunday, I stopped at Hy-Vee on my way home from the gym to pick up snack fixins for Laura's SB party.  As I was pulling into the parking lot, three songs in a row came on and I just could not stop listening.  The first one came to me and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that precise moment.  Then two more followed right behind it.  I sat in the car for 15 minutes, snow falling around me and temperature dropping, before I finally went inside to get snack fixins.  Such a wonderful moment.

I think this song captures the essence of this first verse.  The nature of the tao is that it defies definition.  It cannot be expressed, but it can be known.

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