I have been incredibly focused on these characteristics that I want to cultivate within myself, and I think I need to more properly explain why to those who are reading, and also to myself.
In the beginning, it was because I thought this was what I needed to do in order to be a good person. I was so intent on needing to cultivate certain values, to do certain things, that I ultimately became so possessed by this want that I was called to create these posts.
This changed, however.
It ended up becoming because I wanted to explore these topics. The implementation of them became less of a focus for me, and I simply wanted to understand how it was that I was conceiving of these ideas, and what they meant to me and others.
Okay, well why am I exploring them if I don’t want to try and implement them?
To explain this, I will have to really explain my current views in the philosophical and religious sense, and what I am striving (or not striving) to do.
Originally, I fashioned myself as a Confucianist, who often pondered Western religious and philosophical concepts. Confucianism is very much a way of thinking that says there are “superior” traits and “inferior” traits that we cultivate. Therefore, the “Superior Person” cultivates those “superior” qualities, and the “Inferior Person” is someone who gives into those “inferior” qualities. I believed this and believed that in order to be a “good” person, I had to cultivate those superior qualities.
Then, I started paying more attention to Taoism and how that worked in my Life. With this shift of perception, I started to change beliefs in regards to whether or not something could ever be “good” or “bad”.
The answer I found was no.
There is no such thing as good or bad; they are human constructs. We invented them to help guide us in our Life and to help us deal with other people in a way that was manageable. In doing so, we tried to create rules that were always true in every situation. We believed that there could be Universal rules of ethics and morals that existed always throughout every moment whenever.
Taoism, however, tries to get us to see the invisible flux behind Life. It wants people to see the way the world works, how the universe works. These things work through the act of non-action (wu wei). It is in this not trying to do anything, that everything is done. Through not trying to go somewhere, we reach everywhere.
The concepts feel as if they will shatter the mind at first. I did not think I could understand it at first, or that it even made logical sense. This, however, was the point. You will not understand it in any way that we conceive of understanding it. We think that there must be some sort of logic to everything, but logic is a human construct as well. The Universe has no logic. It cares not about numbers or truth tables. It merely is, and we only find it and see it through a letting go of the idea that logic is necessary in every moment. It seems to make no sense, as it is not found through speech nor silence, it is something that exists in everything, small and large. It is Nameless, it is Formless, yet gives form to all.
All of this is fantastic, but the question now becomes how it relates to the characteristics I’ve been discussing.
As my view changed to Taoism, I began to see the characteristics less as something which should be actively cultivated, and instead as something that we only truly achieve through non-action.
This concept is difficult for me though, and many others. The way it tries to get you to think is so different than any way we are used to thinking as Westerners. Ultimately, what it comes down to is the idea that we, when letting go of all we wish to accomplish, truly achieve the greatest and highest aspect of ourselves and act from Universal Laws of Nature, and a deep place of knowledge of Heaven and Earth. I mentioned this in one of my posts when I quoted Lao Tzu in regards to Simplicity.
“When I let go of who I am,
I become what I might be.”
I’d like to analyze this quote a bit more in context of what I’ve been talking about.
If I want to be a “good” person, then I must first let go of my concept of “good”. In letting go of this, I allow myself the ultimate freedom to just be. It is the ability to just be, to simply exist in relation to nature which allows me to see a few important things. Firstly, when I let go of any desires, even the desire to have good desires or the desire to have a lack of desire, when I simply let go, all things are clear to me. In this clarity, I can see that Good, only exists in relation to Bad, Big in relation to Small, Clear in relation to Obscure, Light in relation to Dark. Without the natural opposite of something, we would have nothing by which we could categorize the things which are so important to us.
In terms of Characteristics, we must also be willing to see and acknowledge the existence within ourselves, of their natural opposites. Simplicity only exists in relation to the Complexity in the world. Modesty only exists in relation to excess, Humility in relation to Egotism, Compassion in relation to Indifference. If we cannot except that these things exist within the Universe, and within us, then we cannot allow ourselves to fully reach the level that we have to reach in order to act from the deep, universal levels of truth.
Yet, at a deeper level, we must also realize that such things such as Compassion, Humility, Simplicity, Modesty, and their corresponding opposites, don’t exist in nature either. We merely draw these human equivalents from how nature works in a lot of ways. That which is modest is filled and raised up, that which is high is lowered and depleted (we should all thoroughly investigate this). By merely understanding the world around us, we are able to reach a level of vision that allows us to naturally and without effort become the greatest version of ourselves.
I am only just starting to see this. The Ego fights against these things, and we feel that the will must be exerted in order to achieve a goal. Perhaps this is true in some instances, but in many instances, achieving a quiet heart and a calm mind is the best solution. When we are in this place naturally, we are able to weigh the options of each moment in regards to the truth of that moment, and then act in accordance. There are moments when Complexity is useful, but we only see that when we are existing in a place of equanimity. The actions will change, and we must, therefore, like nothing and dislike nothing, except all things as they are at the moment, and find the way that exists there.
Only in that way can we truly begin to achieve the character we want.
This, is why I choose to not focus on the implementation of characteristics in my blog posts now, but instead just the exploration of what they might mean.
And they will mean different things to every person in different contexts, which is why it is so important for everyone to contemplate the Universe and themselves, in each moment, as often as they can.
To contemplate how they should move within the Universe as well.
Without these sorts of ponderings within the mind, we can never achieve some things. It is only through the realization of the lack of necessity of “achievement” (achievement in regards to what? Mainly just society. We should investigate the idea of whether or not we really achieve anything thoroughly) that we achieve everything.
Don’t worry about letting go sometimes.
However, this isn’t an excuse to just do what we want, which I find is sometimes my impression or the natural tendency. It is something altogether greater than that, and greater than any Universal set of Ethics. It is a call for us to constantly see the world in relation to the moment it is existing in, and our actions as a result of that moment.
Without seeing this, then we just become full of desire, which is the very thing that leads to a busy mind, unable to see clearly the requirements of the time.
However, I encourage you to question this. Find your own meaning in Life. Only in that way can we truly find our answers. There is no right or wrong. As heartbreaking as this is, as much as we want to fight against it, this is the truth. Accepting this is the first step towards acting out of a place that society might call “correct”.
The person that can understand some of these things has the potential to stand on top of the world and breathe fire into the Heart of Life. I’m certainly not there yet, but there isn’t any place I ever have to be.
And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.