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The Tao: 1

I have a reasonably specific set of beliefs. I converted to Catholicism, but I take a lot of it metaphorically, and I will admit to a supporting strata of beliefs that mines many traditions – I’m all over the map, I suppose. But at the deepest level, something essentially nameless is happening that constitutes my set of core beliefs, and I take great comfort in that. Why? Because I know that I don’t have to be right about the specifics of belief. I can rest in that nameless feeling, and know that the rest is nothing but detail. No pressure, as they say.

One of the world’s most profound books is also one of the shortest, and it captures that sense of the nameless better than anything I have ever heard or read. Indeed, it seems to rejoice in that.

That book is the Tao Te Ching. Maybe, I’m a Taoist at heart, or maybe I should call that my fall back position. It was reputedly written by Lao-tzu, a contemporary of Confucius, and consists of 81 shrot chapter, but may be the wisest book ever written.

This is the first chapter:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao

The name that can be named is not the eternal name

The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth

The named is the mother of myriad things

Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence

Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations

These two emerge together but differ in name

The unity is said to be the mystery

Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

(translation by Derek Lin)

I want to look at that in now some detail:

– The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao

As Dorothy told Jerry McQuire (in the movie of the same nae), “You had me at hello.” The “tao” is usually translated as “the (right) way”. It is the underlying principle of the universe. It is what makes everything work. And all of those are wildly inadequate translations (if one takes the line that I have just quoted to heart). If you try to put it into words, you miss something just as putting a bird in a cage takes away some of its “birdness”. It is . . . ineffable. And I love that. The only thing that can do it justice is the pure experience of it, the epichany that defies words to describe it. Thank God for that.

– The name that can be named is not the eternal name

Same thing.

But there is a distinction between lines one and two: nameless versus named, even if all attempts at naming must be considered inadequate, potential and realised, the appearance of duality.

And duality is the system of classification that divides everything into two: potential and realised, good and evil . . . even all those tired old jokes that start, “There are two kinds of people . . .”

– The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth

Back to the nameless, the potential, but with a little more detail. It is divided into heaven and earth, which in Chinese philosophy are also called the creative and the receptive, male and female, yin and yang.

– The named is the mother of myriad things

Back to the named but, again, in more detail.

Note the pairing of lines: 1 = 3 and 2 = 4. That pattern is sustained throughout much of the chapter. It’s constructed like poetry. And it’s perfect.

– Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence

Back to the nameless. The primal, nameless force of the universe is without desire, and if you look at it without desire, you see it from an enlightened perspective; you see the heart of things; you live in the realm of the epiphany, the peak experience. And in that moment, you are a mystic.

– Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations

Back to the named. Manifestations of the essential power of the universe, things like life itself, arise through desire, and when you look at the universe with desire in your heart, that is what you see.

The pattern of lines is continued, each building on the last in a leapfrog fashion:

Nameless: 1 = 3 = 5

Named: 2 = 4 = 6

This pattern imitates the very duality it describes – beautiful!

And then, that duality is resolved:

– These two emerge together but differ in name

They, the nameless and the named, are separate but they are also one, like two sides of a single coin, waves and troughs in the same ocean, folds in the same garment . . .

– The unity is said to be the mystery

Indeed! There’s a proposition to meditate on: the nameless and the named are united. There is real wisdom.

And we can see it in our lives. The deepest forces express themselves through our most mundane actions.

– Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

And if we understand that, we understand everything.

How Can We Change?

One of the great privileges I have is to be involved in the raising of two wonderful young girls, one of whom is two-and-a-half, and the other nine. I never had the chance to raise children of my own, so they are a special blessing to me.

The younger one is just a toddler, so taking care of her is a fairly simple affair: feed her, change her, keep her safe and entertained covers 90% of it. Taking care of the older one is a little more involved. I babysit her three times a week. She comes over and we mix games and watching movies with some educational stuff – being a retired teacher brings with it certain responsibilities, like helping her learn to be a better reader. But there’s more than that:

She has entered a more thoughtful and complicated age, verging on being a tween, I think they call it, which makes me think of my own childhood even as I am a part of hers. I’m no psychologist, but I think this is an age when complexes can arise, where life begins to seriously shape us and things happen that we will remember more and more in later life.

Up until five (my best estimate), I think that we are largely forces of nature, allowing parents and other caregivers only limited influence; after five (not a strict boundary), our families and other circumstances have a greater and greater effect, not just on our day to day lives but the formation of our personalities.

I know that it worked that way for me, more or less, and without going into the details, I got pretty screwed up in ways that I have had to fight my whole life to straighten out, to get past the complexes and being, as much as I can, my authentic self. Now, as I enter the last phase of my life, old age, I am hoping to shed what remain of my complexes and become completely whole at least by the time I die, and hopefully a lot sooner.

Over the past little while, I have been thinking quite a bit about how to best accomplish that, and taking care of my wonderful young god-daughters has given me a real insight.

When it’s time to point out to the older one that I think she needs to do something differently, I am very careful how I do it because I remember that how I was raised did not help me to be the best person I could be. I always let her know that I think she’s a wonderful person even if I think that she should start/stop doing something. I try to make her more aware of the full situation and give her a strategy if that seems helpful. I do it in as warm and loving as way as I can, and I try not to make a big deal of it.

And it works.

I do it that way because I love her in a big way, as if she were my own grandchild, and I want her to be the best person she can be – and the happiest. Every life is a miracle, and she’s a wonderful person, which means that I have an awesome responsibility towards her.

This week, I thought, “What if I treated myself the same way as I treat her?”

I, too, want to be the best person I can be, and I definitely want to be happy. Don’t we all? I don’t have anyone to parent me anymore. I am my own parent. What is the best way to do that?

Too often, we are tremendously hard on ourselves. We talk to ourselves in a way that, if we applied it to others could, at its worst, be called abusive. How often do we call ourselves stupid, ugly, hopeless, fat . . . ?

That does not, and cannot, ever, make us better, happier people.

This can:

  • Say this, “I love myself just the way I am.” Like a mantra. Until it is deeply felt.
  • Become more aware of the situation, not to assign blame and self-flagelate but to understand it.
  • Develop a realistic strategy for self-improvement, even if it is just one little step, as long as it feels like the right direction.
  • Repeat step #1

Growth can only happen through love.

Punishment in anger produces shame, creating and perpetuating complexes; education in an atmosphere of love produces growth and wholeness. That’s the way it works with raising children, and that’s the way it also works with adults, whether others or ourselves.

It’s so simple and so true.

Barack Obama called for an open conversation about race. It never happened. It never will. It is utterly impossible because Obama and all the other people who say they want to heal the racial divide simply will not allow it. He asked for honesty, but those on one side of that divide are eerily silent because they know what would happen if they opened their mouths: they would be called racists . . . for starters.

In the United States, race is largely a blank and white matter; in Canada, it’s a little more complicated, but in both cases, the accepted “wisdom” goes something like this: white people oppress non-whites. Flowing from that premise comes a host of corollaries, and none of them are particularly appealing to white people.

And yes, just in case the picture did not make it clear, I am a white person.

Let’s have a look at the situation of supposedly-oppressed non-whites. In the United States, slavery ended over 150 years ago. (In the British Empire, it’s closer to 200, but who’s counting?) there is no living person who was a slave, and the number of living people who ever met anyone who was a slave is infinitesimal. Extensive civil rights legislation was enacted in the United States fifty years ago. Affirmative action, which actually discriminates against white people, has been the law of the land on both sides of the 49th parallel for decades.

And any white person who feels that this is unfair and has the temerity to say so publicly is quickly dismissed as a racist. That means, in practical terms, that most people who, justifiably, feel that way are forced into a resentful silence.

How, exactly, is healing supposed to occur in such an atmosphere.

This is a situation that is created by anti-racist activists of all colors and those whom they have brainwashed into accepting it.

All of this begs the obvious question: what, exactly, is a racist?

Is a racist someone who dislikes affirmative action? No. A person who keeps mostly to his own racial group? No. Someone who thinks immigration is too high, multiculturalism is a failed policy, or feels uncomfortable with the massive changes in Western society? No, no and no.

A racist is someone who thinks that his race is superior to other racist, which he or she feels are inferior.

Anti-racist activists have expanded that definition to the limits of absurdity.

Getting back to that honest conversation about race that Barack Obama called for, here is my contribution:

First, a disclaimer: I do not feel that any race is superior or inferior to any other. I’ve done some reading and some thinking, and my conclusion is that such a racist view is untenable, illogical, and despicable.

I grew up in a Canada that was almost entirely white and, in English Canada, largely British. These days, many is the time that I have looked around the bus and seen that I have the only white face. Other times, when I do see other white people, they are speaking a language other than English.

What happened?

Immigration policies were adopted where English-speaking white people were discriminated against by means of strictly enforced quotas.

And that’s just the start.

Along with the discriminatory policy of massive non-white immigration, the accompanying policy of official multiculturalism is destroying Canada’s heritage, Canada’s culture – my culture.

That’s honesty.

What say you, Barack?

The Death of Youtube

You know how certain phrases stick in your head? A lot of them are from advertising. “Just do it”? “You deserve a break today”? “It’s the real thing”?

It’s insidious! Advertisers literally take things and stick them in your head. That’s why I stopped watching commercial television ten years ago, and my mind has become a clearer, quieter place.

I watch movies instead. Sadly, theatres started running ads before the movies about thirty years ago, and it’s gotten much, much worse, but I try to arrive during the previews to avoid them. It’s especially sad to see advertising before something that you already paid for. Pretty sleazy on their parts.

Netflix and iTunes are pretty cool–no ads at all, at least not now.

Talking about phrases getting stuck in your head, here’s one I heard when I was a kid: “We’ll be back in sixty seconds”. That was sixty seconds of advertising. Some years later, in the early 80’s if I recall correctly, Tom Snyder, who hosted the Late Late Show, would say, “We’ll be back in two minutes and ten seconds.” That’s twice as long! And it’s gotten longer and more frequent.

Back in the mid-sixties, a one hour television program was actually only 50 minutes long with 10 minutes of advertising: one sixth or a little under 17%. Now, a one hour television program is only 43 minutes long with 17 minutes of advertising–close to twice as much! When you watch a commercial television program, a little under 29% is advertising–that’s almost one third!

People are voluntarily watching entertainment where, almost one third of the time, advertisers are sticking phrases in their heads!

That’s almost unbelievable!

But believe it because it is happening. How did this come about? The advertisers slowly acclimated us to it. Over the course of fifty or so years, they slowly raised the time given over to commercials so that it seemed normal to us. If you haven’t already heard it dozens of times, think of a frog in a pot of water: if you raise the temperature slowly enough, the frog will not jump out; it will just sit there until it cooks.

The same process is now happening on Youtube. (See, I finally got to it.)

Youtube used to be completely commercial free, and it was pretty cool. You could see lots of interesting and useful things there. Now advertising is creeping in, and I am creeping out.

Can’t fool me, Google! (They own it.)

They’re doing the old frog-in-the-pot routine, but I’ve spotted it and have responded accordingly. They bought out Youtube, and are busy introducing advertising where previously there was none, and it’s really, really sneaky.

First, they made advertising optional at the beginning of some videos, then more and more. A commercial starts, but there is a little box at the bottom right that says, “You can skip the add in 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . skip add.” Obviously, they are hoping that you will get hooked at some point during the countdown and watch the rest.

After a while, they started introducing commercials in that same format during the course of longer videos. Now, they are placing commercials at the beginnings of some videos that do not have the “skip” function, so you have to watch the whole 20 or 30 second commercial if you want to watch the video.

The end result will be – drum roll, please! – commercial television.

I have no intention of watching THAT.

Television could have been a noble medium, but it was taken over by commercial interests whose only interest is taking your money by programming you to buy things. It is finally realising its true potential through internet services like iTunes and Netflix where you pay money to watch content – free of brainwashing.

Meanwhile, the cancer of commercials is metasticising onto Youtube, a formerly free content provider, and as we all know, cancer may or may not kill you, but it certainly won’t do you any good.

Youtube, you just lost a viewer.

You Get What You ARE

We talk to other people, ask and offer, react to what they say as they react to us, leaving impressions and setting future events into motion in thousands of ways, not just with our words but our deeds, body language, and in even more subtle ways. As we directly effect their actions, thoughts and moods, that effects how they will, in turn interact with others. We create ripples that spread out in very direction, effecting events that we are never even aware of.

Sometimes, I think of some past interaction, something someone said or did years ago that had no importance for me at the time but now resonates in some meaningful way. Others remember the same of us.

It’s all one, big web of interaction and effect.

I believe that these influences occur on more subtle levels, too. Intuitions, intentions, wordless communication with others, present and absent–who knows in how many ways? We are deep, mysterious creatures with astounding capabilities that science is just beginning to find out about. Those stories we hear about meaningful coincidences, precognition, near death experiences, extra-sensory perception . . . they come from somewhere. Why not trust that they contain some truth.

Quantam mechanics has become stranger than any religion. We live in a universe of wonders, and it may be that we are the greatest wonders of all, magicians creating our own realities, not just through words and deeds but by faith and intentions.

We create our own reality, beginning with our deepest impulse, radiating out from the core of our beings through our deepest thoughts and emotions and unconscious impulses to conscious strategies, which are the most obvious but not necessarily most effective means of achieving our desires–we see that in people who unconsciously undermine themselves.

We manifest our realities, but what we get may or may not be what we consciously desire, which itself may or may not be the best thing for us. Ultimately, we do not get what we want so much as we get what we are.

It all begins with us, so when we want something, that’s where we should start.

As Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see.”

If you want love, be love. If you desire abundance, unbind your thinking. If you want anything, make a place for it in your heart and mind, especially in its deepest levels. Be sure that you really want it–if you are undermining yourself, it may be that what you are striving for does not really suit you, and if that’s true, investigate that.

Get to know yourself.

If you become what you want to attract, it will come to you like iron to a magnet.

How could it be otherwise?

Pity the Kids

When I was a kid, back in the 1950s, I did a lot of things on my own. I played with my friends up and down the street, having only to be home by dinner or by dark. We road our bicycles all over the neighbourhood. We ran around in “the woods” nearby. I walked to school by myself from kindergarten on.

And I was safe. It was what every child did, and they were all safe, at least in suburban Toronto. Not only did nothing happen to me, nothing happened to any of my friends or anyone in my school – ever.

I’m not saying that bad things never happened to unescorted children, but it was very, very rare.

How about now? Well, in the first place, if a parent gave his child that kind of freedom today, he would get arrested for child neglect, and have his child taken away from him by the state – guaranteed.

And to be honest, I would never give my child that kind of freedom nowadays, because I think he or she could be in real danger.

Why the change? Why is it so much more dangerous to be a child these days than it once was?

Hint: it’s not pollution or climate change.

It’s people’s behaviour.

Society has changed, and if it puts children at greater risk, how can these possibly be a good changes?

Society, back in the 1950s, ran a tighter ship. More was expected of people. They were taught more responsibility. Rules were meaningfully enforced. Morality was stressed.

And it was no accident that children were safer.

Today?

– sexually, almost anything goes

– moral relativism is king

– criminal sentencing has become so watered down as to become a virtual oxymoron

– common societal standards and practices have been replaced by the chaos of multiculturalism

Metaphorically, you can almost get away with murder.

Is it any wonder we have to put our children in a buble?

I was born in Canada, and lived my whole life there, so you would think that I would be waving my flag on July 1st, but I don’t, and I never will for the simple reason that this country is no longer Canada, at least not the Canada I know.

For one thing, they changed the name of the country. The Father’s of Confederation were afraid to antagonise our neighbour to the south, so they did not use the name they really wanted–the Kingdom of Canada–and settled for the Dominion of Canada, a uniquely Canadian innovation: no other country had ever been called a Dominion before. For anyone too young to remember, that’s where Dominion Stores took their name, and that’s why our national holiday (up to 1982) was “Dominion Day”–the day we became a Dominion Day.

So why did we change it? “We” didn’t. Pierre Trudeau, who hated all things British, was determined to get rid of every vestige of our British heritage. To be fair, it started earlier, under his predecessor, Lester Pearson, but Trudeau took it, as they say, “to a whole new level”.

Pearson got rid of our true, historical flag, the Red Ensign, which featured the Union Jack in the upper left quadrant, as well as three Canadian maple leaves and a few other symbols, a move that was opposed by the majority in English Canada.

Trudeau patriated the Constitution, making it more French and less British with his politically correct Charter of (so-called) Rights and Freedoms which was the basis for things like affirmative action and bilingualism.

He changed our system of weights and measure from the British imperial system to the French metric, which none of our major trading partners used.

He did everything he could to denigrate the role of the Monarchy, trashing the name “Royal” from every Canadian institution he could–only the RCMP successfully resisted. He further removed the Queen’s likeness from most of our paper money and virtually all of our stamps. He even slid down the bannister at Buckingham Palace to show his contempt for our Queen.

He made the country officially bilingual and gave preference in hiring to unilingual French. He made the country officially multicultural . . . goodbye “English” Canada. And he strictly limited the number of British immigrants.

Finally, he changed the name of our national holiday because he thought it was too British, even though it was a strictly Canadian invention.

And how did he do that? He rammed it through Parliament late one Friday afternoon with only thirteen Members of Parliament present–that’s less than a quorum. That means he snuck it through. It was illegal!

Trudeau was a traitor.

So that’s why I do not, and never will, celebrate Canada Day, symbolising, for me, as it does, the death of the country I love.

Why the hell should I?

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