There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao.
It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things.
The Tao is great.
The universe is great.
Earth is great.
Man is great.
These are the four great powers.
Man follows the earth.
Earth follows the universe.
The universe follows the Tao.
The Tao follows only itself.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 25, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I don’t know how long it has been since I have mentioned this, but I also like sitting out in my back yard at night. The turmoil of beings still goes on at night, though it is more subdued, more quiet. At least it is in my neck of the woods. And, honestly, I am not paying near as much attention to what is going on around me, as above me, anyway. I like gazing up at the stars, and the planets, in the sky above me. I don’t fancy myself to be an amateur astronomer; I don’t even own a telescope. But, I do like looking up into the void, the almost empty sky, looking at the bright dots, and thinking of how many light years were traveled for that light to get to me. When I consider distance in light years, I begin to get an idea of infinity. It just so happens, this sinus infection, which I am trying to let take its own course, is also producing an infinite amount of snot. Do I really need this? How many different ways of contemplating infinity do there have to be? Please don’t answer that. I am afraid the answer is going to be an infinite number of ways.
But back to that night sky. Another thing that I am doing, while looking up at those tiny points of light, is imagining what came before the Universe was born. Lao Tzu tells us there was something formless and perfect, then. Serene, empty, solitary, unchanging, infinite (there is that word again), eternally present. Of course, we know what he is describing. He has used these descriptors quite a lot in all the chapters leading up to this one. He says it is the mother of the Universe. The Great Mother. For lack of any better name, he calls it the Tao.
What exactly does the Tao do? It flows. It flows through all things. Inside all things. Outside all things. And, then, it returns to the origin of all things. The Tao, being the Great Mother, is the origin of all things. It literally flows through all things, and always returns back to itself. Wait, was that the proper way to use “literally”? I maybe should go back and delete that word. Looks superfluous to me. Or is it redundant? This sinus infection has me not thinking quite straight when it comes to vocabulary.
Lao Tzu understands my problem. And, no, it is not that I am on Meds. His little one and two word descriptors for the Tao, show just how challenging it is to try to describe the Tao. Formless and perfect? That has to be an oxymoron. Wait! Did I get that one right?
If you are reading any of this I have decided to just continue to go with the flow, and not stop my typing to check whether I got any of my vocabulary right.
The whole point of this is to say the Tao is great! But, don’t stop there. The Universe is great, too. And the Earth, don’t forget about the Earth. It is also great. And, then you have us humans. Even, we, are great. These are the four great powers.
But what makes them all so great?
Humans are great because we follow the Earth. The Earth is great because it follows the Universe. The Universe is great because it follows the Tao. Ah, the Tao. What is it again that makes the Tao great? It doesn’t have anything greater to follow, so it follows only itself.
I kept things light today. But tomorrow, Lao Tzu will talk about the benefits of the heavy.