returning to the root

Be completely empty.
Be perfectly serene.
The ten thousand things arise together;
in their arising is their return.
Now they flower,
and flowering
sink homeward,
returning to the root.

The return to the root
is peace.
Peace: to accept what must be,
to know what endures.
In that knowledge is wisdom.
Without it, ruin, disorder.

To know what endures
is to be openhearted,
magnanimous,
regal,
blessed,
following the Tao,
the way that endures forever.
The body comes to its ending,
but there is nothing to fear.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin

I love this poem. I love its promise of beauty. I love its promise of nothingness. In most ideologies, death leads to a reward or punishment. But the Tao does nothing like that. It asks us to accept that death is the end, and that there’s nothing to fear there. That the end of your body does not mean the end of life or beauty. That death is part of all of this.

We do not endure, but the Tao does. We accept our ending, and so find tranquility.

Life doesn’t end because we die. The Tao doesn’t falter because of our absence. We are just parts of the whole. We are born, and we flower. Then we wilt and die, and our death creates the opportunity for more growth.

I don’t have much more to say than that. I just love this poem. Le Guin’s thoughts are interesting, too, and I’ll leave you with them:

To those who will not admit morality without a deity to validate it, or spirituality of which man is not the measure, the firmness of Lao Tzu’s morality and the sweetness of his spiritual consul must seem incomprehensible, or illegitimate, or very troubling indeed.

thanks, obama

And I get to write that unironically, since I’m extremely pleased with the president’s decision to commute Chelsea Manning’s sentence! She’ll be free this May.

And while I say thanks to Obama, the real thanks is to all the people who worked tirelessly for this, who helped by donating to her defense fund. And the bulk of that work was done by the Chelsea Manning Support Network, which I’m proud to have been a supporting member of since 2010.

And if you’ve followed this blog or my twitter or facebook even casually for the last six years, you may know how much this means to me.

Honestly, this is the most significant positive decision Obama’s made since Trump got elected president. I can’t even pretend to not be thankful that he’s done this.

Of course, this wouldn’t have needed to be done had his administration not tortured, then prosecuted, then imprisoned her, then tortured her for the last six years, and all because she released information to Wikileaks. Information that has saved millions of lives and contributed to sparking the Arab Spring, as well as ending US imperial violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, yeah, Barack Obama and his administration invented this problem by going after her and then committing human rights abuses by torturing her in various ways for six years, and this certainly doesn’t absolve him from abusing and torturing her for so long, but! I’m still thankful that he’s saved her life by commuting her sentence.

Because as bad as her life was under an Obama administration, I think it’s clear she literally would not survive a Trump administration.

And while I could go on to say a lot of critical things here, I think I’ll try to leave off on a happy note.

Thank you, Obama, and good luck, Chelsea Manning.

Don’t know where your life will lead you, but I’m grateful and excited for you to be free.

You’ve been one of the most heroic americans of this or any other generation.