not doing

Those who think to win the world
by doing something to it,
I see them come to grief.
For the world is a sacred object.
Nothing is to be done to it.
To do anything to it is to damage it.
To seize it is to lose it.

Under heaven some things lead, some follow,
some blow hot, some cold,
some are strong, some weak,
some are fulfilled, some fail.

So the wise soul keeps away
from the extremes, excess, extravagance.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

The earth is sacred and 2,500 years after this was written, we’ve irrevocably damaged the earth through greed, excess, war, and gluttony. The earth will survive us, but we will not survive it.

We have treated it like a tomb to loot and in doing so we’ve reduced ourselves to scavengers, to looters, to vermin spreading a disease. Bacteria consuming the earth, stripping its bones clean and drinking its blood.

The Tao asks us to find a balance, and we’ve spun terribly off-kilter as a species.

And so how do we find that balance? Where is the balance to be found on a sinking ship?

I wish I had an answer for this, too. And maybe the best we can do is find a new equilibrium with this dying world. The ship will keep sinking, but maybe we can give it a gentle embrace before it pulls us under?

I know some want to harvest what’s left of its hull to escape to another ship, but I don’t think we deserve that.

And if we’re to honor ourselves and our world, we should go down with the ship. But maybe we can give it a soothing decline spread over centuries, rather than the sprint we’re running to our own demise.

The Tao is not about finding a new way. I don’t think it’s ever been that way, even when Lao Tzu wrote this all those centuries ago.

But, now, it requires that we find a new way, I think, or rediscover an old way. A way through these centuries of violence and industrialization.

Not to return to the past, but to find a balance in our lives that’re inundated with constant streams of information. Information terror is the world we live in. We reduce ourselves by flooding our heads with so much. We lose ourselves in the constant deluge of information.

For me, it means trying to close that valve a bit. Spending more time with human bodies. When I shut off my work computer at the end of the day, I leave my phone there, too. I’ll play on my laptop during the night, but I try to do that more and more frequently.

Instead I try to spend more real time with my wife, with my cat, with my friends. Working with my hands instead of just spending all day thinking, consuming information. Because if there’s a balance that needs to be found, it begins for me with me. I’ve trailed into the wilddeeps of information overload since I was 18, and while I wouldn’t trade the last ten years or all the information and knowledge I’ve accrued through the dense swamp of constant information, I no longer need that level of constant feedback.

More than not needing, I know it’s reducing me, hollowing me out, making me unhappy.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop paying attention. That I’m giving up on being informed or that I’ll let my country continue to spin out of control (something it’s been doing for decades but has definitely accelerated in the last weeks) without saying a word about it.

It’s about finding a balance. To get off my computer and out of the digital and get back into the world of bodies and hands and mouths.

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