daring to do

Brave daring leads to death.
Brave caution leads to life.
The choice can be the right one
or the wrong one.

Who will interpret
the judgment of heaven?
Even the wise soul
finds it hard.

The way of heaven
doesn’t compete
yet wins handily,
doesn’t speak
yet answers fully,
doesn’t summon
yet attracts.
It acts
perfectly easily.

The net of heaven
is vast, vast,
wide-meshed,
yet misses nothing.

–Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

This poem is mostly a reiteration of what amounts to a central thesis of the Tao Te Ching. The Tao asks us to act without acting, teach without speaking. It ties these ideas to the way of heaven, reiterating the permanence of the Tao. How it began before everything else, exists within everything else, and will last long after all else fades and dies.

The first stanza puts emphasis on our action, and it’s asking us to understand what our choices mean. Daring and caution may be correct or incorrect, depending on the context.

The second stanza reiterates the difficulty of knowing the Tao. Every moment brings a new choice. Sometimes the answer is clear, but often it’s not. The correct action in one instance may not be the correct action in another. The correct action for me may not be the correct action for you.

The Tao is fluid and flexible and everychanging. The stream of infinite flux.

It’s for us to try and do the best we can. We’ll be wrong often. We’ll fail often. But there’s value in the effort. There’s value in simply considering our choices.

Get used to contemplating what your choices mean. Because life does not always offer simple choices. The support of one idea may be correct today but incorrect or incomplete tomorrow.

I find myself often thinking about all this in terms of today, which makes sense, considering I’m alive today. But we’re seeing such fervor in opposing Trump that we’re often missing important details. We’re often ignoring context and reality, because we’re willing to believe in any awful rumor about the man.

Which is to say: many in the opposition are behaving the same way conservatives behaved when faced with an Obama or Hillary Clinton presidency. Any rumor, no matter how absurd or ridiculous, became instantly believed, spread, and consumed. Proof wasn’t needed because their disgust was already so great that there was no bottom to the evil they believed these two could commit.

What we’re seeing as a response to Trump is sometimes equivalent to journalistic fraud, and that should scare everyone.

I stand with the opposition to the president. Everything he’s done so far, and everything he seems to plan to do, is a disaster. But let’s remember that there’s a difference between propaganda and journalism, between rumor and revelation.

Remember, too, that the Democrats can bring up impeachment for at least a dozen reasons. None of them have done so. It’s unlikely that one of them will, since Nancy Pelosi also refused to bring up impeachment against George W Bush, because she said he never did anything illegal.

As if war crimes and crimes against humanity just simply don’t exist.

Remember what your Democrat senators and representatives do during this term. It may have been the correct choice for you to vote for them, but very few of them are behaving the way we hoped, which means it’s unlikely that they will be the correct choice again.

Remember, too, that there may be a time we need to work with this administration. For some, even reading me write that shows me to be some kind of Nazi sympathizer or traitor. But there may be very good reasons to work with a Trump presidency, especially if he ever follows through on a meaningful infrastructure bill.

So remember that choice is not absolute. It’s fluid and messy. Your choices today matter, and the ones you make tomorrow will matter too. Every choice you’ve made in life has mattered. So be careful with your choices. And remember that the world changes with you and without you. A choice that is correct today may not be correct in tomorrow’s context.

That’s why you need to pay attention.

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