Honour. Value.

What do you love? What do you find beautiful? What should be valued? What is worthy of honour and respect? What is winsome and appealing? All these are feeling questions, which can give life meaning. Working things out rationally never will. Rationality is for finding how to achieve what you want, not to decide what you want.

Be broken to be whole.
Twist to be straight.
Be empty to be full.
Wear out to be renewed.

That’s where I am at the moment, after my psychotherapy sessions, clinging to hope from the Le Guin version Tao Te Ching, because I just feel broken. “Wise souls hold to the one, and test all things against it.” I am not sure about the bit in between- “Have little and gain much. Have much and get confused.” I choose to interpret it, have a complete understanding of the world based on ego, and get confused. Lose the ego-understanding and gain the Real Self understanding.

Hold to the one, and it seems the one is frightened too. There’s no escaping fear.

I considered seeking further funding, but did not. This is in part rational- what can I do to seek funding? But the decision not to is still a matter of feeling. One rationalises. I approached your question of how we would say goodbye in a rational way. I thought I would have no problems in saying goodbye to a professional who had, done a conveyancing on a house or even who had won a discrimination case in the ET and then I thought of what I called transference calling you Mum.

The word “rational” should be used for thinking which is emotional, based on desire, and then considering how wants might be achieved with clear-eyed seeing the world as it is. “Rational” includes “emotional”.

I am alexithymic: I have a reduced “ability to identify and describe emotions experienced by onesself or others.” I was maimed. Perhaps as a toddler, but I believe it was before I could walk: I felt anger or fear, showed it, suffered for it, so suppressing anger and fear became the most important thing in the world for me, and even now, my primary fear- fear of a real thing in the world- is far less a problem than the secondary fear, my fear of my own fear, fear of admitting it to myself, fear of its existence, so that I must suppress what I cannot suppress and become paralysed.

What is “broken” is the protected ego, the part that believes I do not fear, because it is the block to my fear flowing freely, like a clogged artery. When that ego is broken, I may become whole, I hope.

I feel I have done the work between the sessions, and over the past few months I have grown better at recognising feelings. On internal conflict, when I acknowledge the part opposing what the ego wants to do, when I see it as feeling and reason and not mere resistance, inadequacy, or Lack- lack of motivation, energy, gumption- making choices and taking action become easier.

Those feelings in me, sometimes perceived as mere resistance, or sulk, are worthy of honour and respect.

I am capable of sustained effort sometimes. That NEC post was effort. And I could only go to work in a fight or flight mode, I must do this to survive, that I could never sustain. I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and that is not mere laziness, but fear. Omniphobia. The lesson learned that what I want I cannot get. Though as the main thing I want is not to feel fear that lesson may be based on the wrong experiences.

The route through is “be broken to be whole”. Take the simplest decision or action out of fast thinking and bring it into slow thinking, use the necessary respect and care to discern what are the reasons not to, which would otherwise seem mere lack, and thereby find some elusive positive desire.

It’s the last line of King Lear. “What I ought to say” has become so vile to me that I cannot say it.

How do I see the next few months? Well, there will be hours when I just switch off, reading but not taking in political articles and their miasma of Acceptable Feelings, or slumped in front of the telly. I can read- “A Song of Ice and Fire” which has a very narrow range and a lot of fear and anger, or “Stalingrad” which has all human emotion, including Love, but takes more concentration. Human kind cannot bear very much reality. And there will be the Silence, the fixed times of worship with Pendle Hill, Woodbrooke or Friends House, when it is me and God.

I want the Breakthrough to Authenticity, and there will be slow patient work climbing a hill, or like an archaeologist removing five feet of packed earth painstakingly, with a brush, to get to the beautiful mosaic- or the bones- underneath.

And there is desire. There is florid way-out showman me, whom I fear. That came out in ministry to Quakers.

My goal is to move into the feeling self where motivation lies. Possibly to find a middle level of suppression where I am aware of it and others are not, which comes if I accept it. If I do not accept it, others are aware and I am not. Keep practising, like learning to ride a bicycle. Breaking through the shell will be a series of continual setbacks.

She told me not to, and I recorded her. “The journey goes on, I hope it comes to your expectation of where you are in five years, you will be in a place you have never anticipated, a better place, it’s good to be, you have used the word honouring a lot today, I feel you have been honouring yourself in your work over the past few weeks, being able to go into those places and with immense courage being able to honour that you aren’t shutting them down, you are acknowledging that they are there, it takes a lot of courage, being yourself.”

“Lovely to get to know you, I appreciate how hard you’ve worked, and how difficult some of that has been, and I really enjoyed meeting that authentic you, being able to be who you are, nobody else, it’s been a real gift. I hope you can- if not love yourself in the right way but learn to accept yourself? I was really pleased that that inner conflict shifting and changing, I hope that continues.”

Imagine Mum saying that.

-Have you any final words?

The human being tends towards health. We are evolved to recover from wounds.

Two days later, Thursday 22nd, I was reminded that people respect and care for me, and felt get-up-and-dance joy.

Action without resistance.

There is what you feel
then there is what you feel about what you feel.

Eckhart Tolle shows this in the woman he healed. He said to her, Can you see that your unhappiness about being unhappy is just another layer of unhappiness?… Find out if it’s possible to allow those feelings to be there.

And she said, This is weird. I am still unhappy, but now there is space around it. It seems to matter less.

I realised how I feared my fear. Before, I feared my fear and anger so much that I was not conscious of it. Then I was conscious of the fear and anger and I still feared it. Now, my feelings disappoint or irk me. They are proof of my inappropriate response to everything. I, that is the I of consciousness and language, call that part that feels the “Real Me” even the “Inner Light” and disdain it.

It seems to me that defence mechanism could be useful. It is a flatness of affect, consciously being in the intellect. Underneath it (while I fail to defend myself from myself) I tie myself in knots. If I could be in that place while accepting and allowing my feelings to flow, being conscious of them, it would be a good place to be. I am only overwhelmed by my feelings when I resist them.

Resistance and action are not the same.

I want the world to be other than it is. So I resist it. In doing that I resist myself.

There is a flow, where the creature, the whole-I, acts in its own interests (which are loving and creative) to achieve what whole-I wants to achieve. And there is resistance, questioning, “What will people think?”, fear of myself, confusion. I “think” about what I should do instead of doing it, and so become divided. My thinking produce decisions which resist how the world is and how whole-I is.

There is the action needed in the moment. My friend, threatened with redundancy, can look for jobs. I can read a book, or meditate. Some of this action I resist less, as I have consciously accepted it- it seems so much of my fast thinking is resistance that I need to draw this up into consciousness and slow-think myself into acceptance. Or I need to meditate more.

And I resist Tolle. His idea of the “Pain-body”- well, I believe I am created in the image of God, so that my feeling self is good. It could just be a slight difference of conception. When I express anger, it is disproportionate, and it gets in my way. And I am very angry. Most of it is at myself, and a lot of it is at the world.

The wise soul does without doing

That’s Ursula LeGuin’s rendition of Tao te ching, poem 2. She comments, Over and over Lao Tzu says wei wu wei: Do not do. Doing not-doing. To act without acting. Action by inaction. You do nothing yet it gets done. . . . It’s not a statement susceptible to logical interpretation, or even to a syntactical translation into English; but it’s a concept that transforms thought radically, that changes minds. The whole book is both an explanation and a demonstration of it.

One of these mornings
you gonna rise up singin
Then you’ll spread your wings
and take the sky

What is the Tao?

if you don’t presume to lead
you can lead the high and mighty.

For me, the Tao is flowing like water, or action without effort: doing something according to instinct without consciously analysing, calculating or criticising it, without pride or fear or even intent, allowing action rather than taking it. One does this better after learning to do it, which makes me wonder how learning might “flow”- I do not know the Tao. Or my heart does.

For CS Lewis, the Tao is Natural Law, the moral code inscribed by God in every conscience, which every man knows unless he is corrupted. Values are objective, and must be recognised. It is illegitimate to challenge them: The direct frontal attack- “Why?” – “What good does it do?” – “Who said so?” is never permissible; not because it is harsh or offensive but because no values at all can justify themselves on that level. You cannot think properly without valuing truth, cannot ask a justification without seeing that morals can justify: If you persist in that kind of trial you will destroy all values, and so destroy the bases of your own criticism as well as the thing criticised.

Whereas for me, values may be debated, and consequentialism requires evidence of likely consequences. What “peace” means, between individuals or states, may be addressed by philosophers. We can come to greater understanding. Dulce et decorum est is really an “old lie”. Lewis admits there may be criticism of Natural Law from people who accept it generally, but not from without, in the interests of commercial convenience or scientific accuracy.

Everything outside my skin is sublime- simply and only of itself, not subject to my laws or understanding, holy and magical. The dust beneath my feet is made of atoms created in supernovae and blasted across space, churned as magma and blasted from the Earth as lava. I imagine I might agree, still, with a great deal of Lewis’ concepts of natural law; but not with his understanding of how it might come about, or how it could be improved. We know so much more psychology than he did in 1942.

Lewis imagines a group of “Conditioners”, perhaps in the hundredth century AD., who had the ability to throw off the influence of previous generations, and to conclusively influence all generations after until the end of the human race. Therefore there is no “Man’s conquest of nature”, only a power possessed by some men which they may, or may not, allow other men to profit by. He spends several pages elucidating this nightmare, which fits Professor Weston, possessed by the Devil, in Perelandra. It has links to Presuppositionalism and the Christian idea that atheists cannot be moral. I feel that people will always be free who value nothing else, not even life, more than freedom, and that some people like that will always exist, and others will listen to them. Perfect totalitarianism cannot exist, and even though human beings can create monstrous hells which are difficult to escape it will always be possible eventually.

Lewis ends with illustrations of natural law from different civilisations. A lot comes from the Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics. Whoso makes intercession for the weak, well pleasing is this to Shamash, said some Babylonian source. However his list makes no pretence of completeness, and you might find better sources for the content or evolution of ethics.

Translating the Tao

Daodejing_in_Lesser_Seal_script.svgSearching but not seeing, we call it dim.
Listening but not hearing, we call it faint.
Groping but not touching, we call it subtle.

These three cannot be fully grasped.
Therefore they become one.

These are the first five lines of chapter 14 of the Tao Te Ching, in the translation by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo, and I read them as describing the Seeker, who has not yet found the Way. Jesus quoted Isaiah on people having ears but not hearing. We call it dim, faint or subtle because we do not grasp the Way.

Ursula LeGuin, working with a literal translation of the pictograms and many different English translations, gives me a quite different impression.

Look at it: nothing to see.
Call it colourless.
Listen to it: nothing to hear.
Call it soundless.
Reach for it: nothing to hold.
Call it intangible.

Triply undifferentiated,
it merges into oneness.

This concerns the follower of the Way. S/he moves in the Way, because it is natural to her/him. We do not touch it, it is just what is, how we are. The unthinkable thought which one cannot plan, but does. (Or something- there is Seeker in me yet.)

James Legge, a wordy 19th century translator, wrote, With these three qualities, it cannot be made the subject of description, and hence we blend them together and obtain The One. We have found the way, which we create by blending the Equable, the Inaudible and the Subtle.

Here is another translation:

Looked at but cannot be seen – it is beneath form;
Listened to but cannot be heard – it is beneath sound;
Held but cannot be touched – it is beneath feeling;
These depthless things evade definition,
And blend into a single mystery.

The Tao is what is, blending whether anyone sees it, or not.

Another:

Look at it, it cannot be seen
It is called colorless
Listen to it, it cannot be heard
It is called noiseless
Reach for it, it cannot be held
It is called formless
These three cannot be completely unraveled
So they are combined into one

So, the translation affects how I understand the text, or do not understand it. The translation can only equal the understanding of the translator.

Better maps

File:Calligraphic Dao..pngSpirituality is the territory- relating with Self, Other, and Higher Being; religion is the map. Everyone who says “I am spiritual and not religious” is evidence our maps are inadequate.

Marcel jumps out of the way of a car, and steps on a pavement precisely as uneven as one he stepped on in Venice; and his memory of that experience in Venice erupts into his consciousness uncalled-for. In that moment, the memory is as beautiful as an unqualified, unmediated experience: it just is, without ego getting in the way; I escape myself. The world in a grain of sand, says not a map but a fragment of one: one kind of moment, that I recognise remember and often experience, without for me, now, any road to other experiences or actions.

Then I am talking to S, and the thought crosses my mind that this is indeed one of those worldgrainsand moments, I am with her- and immediately I am with the thought, not the experience of the person. Perhaps more breath-counting will get me there in the end: I kneel and count my breaths, and other thoughts File:Ideograma del Tao (Dao)..jpgcross my mind uninhibited, and vanish because I do not hold them there. Perhaps my memory of that conversation, which I dredge up for the purpose of writing, is not immediate, but soiled by my judgment of it.

I noticed the scratches on the wood, and this seemed a different worldgrainsand moment than previous such moments with that bench: before, I had noticed the grain of the wood, or the knot. Scratch and solidity: it bears its scratches, marked but not weakened by them. Experience, image, memory: all these are different, and the judgment “not weakened” comes somewhere.

I want to move through the World in Love, and this would mean: observing the beauty and abundance of it; taking what I need, without harming the whole, and without fear; uniting without grasping; allowing it and those unknowable creatures within it to be, as they are, without the need for them to be other- creatures including myself;

and everything would be alright. Because everything is alright.

Then something does not fit this cosy image, and it bursts, like a bubble: a tiny soapy drip falls and marks my shirt.

Or- even if it feels otherwise, even if I feel uncomfortable, this is what is happening, as best I can-

Tao called tao is not tao. Do it, don’t describe it, you cannot describe it, you might allude to it- “Am I doing it?” Yes, and no; no, and yes.

Movement and repose

If they ask you, “What is the evidence of your father in you?” say to them, “It is movement and repose”

– Gospel of Thomas saying 50, part 3. Mmmm. Action when action is needed, rest at other times. Still the mind, the ego and the worry. Movement and repose together as one.

Here is something from Hafiz, interpreted by Daniel Ladinsky:

When your truth forsakes its shyness,
When your fears surrender to your strengths,

I find this so beautiful that almost the consequence is unnecessary, the “When”, not “if” in those two lines and their promise is enough. But here is what happens:

You will begin to experience

That all existence
Is a teeming sea of infinite life.

While I am sitting here, thumbing through my Kindle, here are the first two lines of Burton and Watson’s Tao Te Ching translation:

Tao called Tao is not Tao.
Names can name no lasting name.

So much wisdom from the millennia, just– there, just- everywhere I look, just- ready for me to take it into my heart and my life. Wisdom, and beauty, knocking on my door all the time, importunate, demanding, only needing for me to notice. Wisdom, and beauty, and Love.

She bangs on the door importunately, and will not be denied,
She bangs on the door, and cries,
“OPEN UP! OPEN UP! My Darling!”

Go well.