A mother attempts to control a child through authority and tradition, through shame and fear. In thinking about the judgments used against this younger member of my extended family, I’m saddened the mother calls herself “Christian.”
The mother feels righteous. She desires others to affirm her goodness. She feels the security of patriarchal authority nodding to her hurtful words from millennia of tradition. But she doesn’t realize that words of exclusion and shame come not from Jesus. Her judgments come from those who wield power.
The first revelation, the source of a belief, is often inspired and becomes the heart of a new Way. Better if humans left it at that. But people don’t leave it at that. Later thoughts and interpretations often diverge from the heart in order to create institutions and maintain authority. Why? Because people desire power and answers, while detached observation and questions make them anxious. These developments seem to happen in metaphysics and religions of all kinds.
I don’t hate Christians. I don’t pity them as confused or manipulated, either. In fact, I don’t think about them much at all. The farther I walk with Dao the less I care about the people whose stories diverge so much from mine. In other words, it’s none of my business what this mother thinks or why. But her daughter suffers, and her daughter has a story much like mine.
So I’ve been thinking. With Christians, we have the Beatitudes, the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Further actions that use this heart are Christian. Actions that don’t use this heart serve another purpose, not Jesus’s own. The same can be said for Dao. Tao Te Ching revealed the heart of Dao, and the many religions, rituals, and magic that arose over the centuries since Laozi distract from the heart and serve another purpose.
In other words, I have no interest in becoming immortal or directing my chi.
I just walk with Dao.
The eight Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12 during the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
My favorite translation of Tao Te Ching is by Ursula LeGuin and here’s why:
Scholarly translations of the Tao Te Ching as a manual for rulers use a vocabulary that emphasizes the uniqueness of the Taoist “sage,” his masculinity, his authority. This language is perpetuated, and degraded, in most popular versions. I wanted a Book of the Way accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, and perhaps unmale reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul. I would like that reader to see why people have loved the book for twenty-five hundred years. It is the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing. Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water. (LeGuin, Ursula K. Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way (Kindle Locations 201-206). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.)
Most people seem to quote the beginning words of Book One, but the most meaningful to me are a few lines down:
So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.