Choosing to Differ

“Get rid of learning and problems will vanish
yes and no
aren’t so far apart
lovely and ugly
aren’t so unalike
what others fear
we can’t help fear too
before the moon begins to wane
everyone is overjoyed
as if they were at the great Sacrifice
or climbing a tower in spring
I sit here and make no sign
like an infant that doesn’t smile
lost with no one to turn to
while others enjoy more
I alone seem deficient
with a mind like that of a fool
I’m so simple
others look bright
I alone seem dim
others are certain
I alone am confused
ebbing like the ocean
waxing without cease
everyone has a goal
I alone am dumb and backward
for I alone choose to differ
preferring still my mother’s tit”

(Taoteching, verse 20, translation by Red Pine)

CH’ENG HSUAN-YING says, “When we give up the study of phenomena and understand the principle of noninterference, troubles come to an end and distress disappears.”

LI HSI-CHAI says, “What passes for learning in the world never ends. For every truth found, two are lost. And while what we find brings joy, losses bring sorrow – sorrow that never ends.”

CH’ENG HSUAN-YING says, “Wei [yes] indicates agreement and k’o [no] disdain.

SUNG CH’ANG-HSING says, “Even though ‘yes’ and ‘no’ come from the same source, namely the mouth, ‘yes’ is the root of beauty, and ‘no’ is the root of ugliness. Before they appear, there is nothing beautiful or ugly and nothing to fear. But once they appear, if we don’t fear one or the other, disaster and harm are unavoidable.”

LI HSI-CHAI says, “What others love, the sage also loves. What others fear, the sage fears, too. But where the sage differs is that while others don’t see anything outside their own minds, the mind of the sage wanders in the Tao.”

WANG P’ANG says, “Everything changes into its opposite. Beginning follows end without cease. But people think everything is either beautiful or ugly. How absurd! Only the sage knows that the ten thousand ages are the same, that nothing is gained or lost.”

SU CH’E says, “People all drown in what they love: the beauty of the Great Sacrifice, the happiness of climbing to a scenic viewpoint in spring. Only the sage sees into their illusory nature and remains unmoved. People chase things and forget about the Tao, while the sage clings to the Tao and ignores everything else, just as an infant only nurses at it mother’s breast.”

TS’AO TAO-CH’UNG says, “People all see external things, while sages alone nourish themselves on internal breath. Breath is the mother, and spirit is the child. The harmony of mother and child is the key to nourishing life.”

And, RED PINE adds, “Another verse in which Lao-tzu chooses the crescent moon, while others choose the full moon. In ancient China, emperors marked the return of swallows to their capitals in spring with the Great Sacrifice to the Supreme Intermediary, while people of all ranks climbed towers or hiked into the hills to view the countryside in bloom and to celebrate the first full moon.”

I can identify with Lao-tzu. I suspect that many of my followers do, as well. The things we have been talking about for the last several days, now, the diagnosis of our problem, and the prescription for healing – these are way outside the mainstream of allowable opinion. Lao-tzu doesn’t just differ from everyone else, he chooses to differ from everyone else. That means he is alone. How many times does he say, “I alone”? I counted at least five times in this verse.

And, let me tell you, I am alone, too. As, I am sure, you are. Don’t worry about it. It is completely natural to be alone when you choose to think differently, to act differently. It isn’t how to win friends. To seem deficient. To be simple. To seem dim. To be confused about what all the uproar is about anyway. Everyone has a goal. I alone am dumb and backward.

This isn’t self-pity, or self-loathing, on Lao-tzu’s part. And it certainly isn’t on my own part. I have chosen to be different. And I can’t be like everyone else ever again.

Once I came to a certain realization. You know this for yourself, I am sure. I realized artificial “learning” had to go. And problems vanished. I realized yes and no weren’t so far apart. Think about that for just a moment. Just think of how much our social media is rife with arguments over yes and no. What is lovely and what is ugly? I realized just how alike they are.

Now, I am human, just like you, and even Lao-tzu. I understand fear. And, I can’t help but fear, too. But, I just can’t get all worked up over it any longer. I have a friend who I meet weekly; and we have tea, while discussing all the problems of the world. I almost always tell him, “I can’t do anything about it, so what is it to me? I am just going to live my life in such a way that I am as little affected by it as is humanly possible.”

It is simple, really. I am a fool. Not getting overjoyed, or overly anxious, about anything. Nope! I just sit here at my mother’s tit. Slurp. Slurp. Yum. This is contentment.

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