The Tao is called the Great Mother;
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.
It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 6, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
A Really Great Mother
I hope everyone is having a wonderful season of holidays. I am fresh off a visit from my sister, and my brother and his family. It was so nice getting us siblings together. Because we are scattered across the country, we don’t get to see each other more than a couple times a year. But, it being a holiday, I got to host a visit. And, as is always the case when we get together, after months away, we started talking about our common denominator, our parents. Since our parents are no longer living, each of us share our own favorite memories. This visit we happened to talk a lot about how hard-working Dad and Mom were. Especially Mom. And, that leads me to talking about today’s chapter. Because, in today’s chapter, Lao Tzu calls the Tao the Great Mother. And, I can’t possibly read today’s chapter without thinking of my own great mother.
Empty yet inexhaustible! That is a perfect description of my mother. I would also describe her as the most selfless person I have ever known. But, that wouldn’t really be quite true. Because her selflessness wasn’t really selflessness. Her purpose in life was to be a loving wife to my dad, and the greatest of mothers to her three children. It wasn’t selfless on her part. It was merely an expression of who and what she was. I was the oldest, so I had the good fortune of knowing her the longest. The woman seemingly never tired. She would get up hours before anyone else in the household. And go to bed after everyone else, too. And, she never complained. She just kept giving, and giving. Exuding joy. Empty. Just like the Tao. And, just like the Tao, that emptiness contained within itself inexhaustible potential.
Does the metaphor break down once we start talking about giving birth to infinite worlds? She only gave birth to three children, after all. No, I don’t think so. For she gave birth to infinite possibilities in each of her children. And, four grandchildren, who had the honor of knowing her for too few years.
My mother is gone. For three years, now. Yet, once again, and just like the Tao, she is always present within us. Each and every day. And, I can use that presence, any way I want. That, I am doing today, with today’s commentary. Tomorrow, we will talk more about the Tao being always present within us; and why, that makes it infinite. But, for today, thanks for letting me talk about my mom, a really great mother.