One of the basic notions of Taoism is that the world in all its mystery and difficulty cannot be improved upon, only experienced.We are asked to believe that life in all its complexity and wonder is complete as is — ever changing and vital, but never perfectible. I’ve come to understand that this doesn’t prevent our being involved. On the contrary, accepting that the world can do quite fine without us allows us to put down the burden of being corrective heroes and simply concentrate on absorbing the journey of being alive.
Thus, our work is not to eliminate or re-create anything. Rather, like human fish, we are asked to experience meaning in the life that moves through the gill that is our heart. Ultimately, we are small living things awakened in the stream, not gods who carve out rivers.We cannot eliminate hunger, but we can feed each other. We cannot eliminate loneliness, but we can hold each other. We cannot eliminate pain, but we can live a life of compassion.
When Zen Master Joshu was a young monk he asked his teacher Nansen “What is the Way?” His teacher replied “Your ordinary mind is the way”. By “ordinary, Nansen meant the mind Joshu already had; he did not need to turn it, or himself, into something else. Unfortunately, these days when we hear the word ordinary, we are inclined to think that it means “average or typical” or even “mediocre”. We contrast ordinary with special and decide, given the choice, we would rather be special. But our practice wont make us special; it will keep bringing us back to who we are already.
Why cannot we be content with the secret gift of happiness that is offered to us, without consulting the rest of the world? Why do we insist rather on a happiness that is approved by magazines and TV? Perhaps because we do not believe in a happiness that is given to us for nothing? We do not think we can be happy with a happiness that has no price tag on it.
The modern commercial celebration of Christmas carries within it the danger of over-anticipation, where we could fall into a projection as to how everything is going to go perfectly, or is going to be suddenly different in the future. We tie our happiness to a certain form of a future moment, which only leads us to feel more discontent when we see that nothing really has changed
A different perspective is found in the Western Liturgy, which begins to sing from December 17th the beautiful “O” Antiphons, dating from the 4th Century, putting into words hopes based on a deeper perspective. The one for today asks for Wisdom, to teach us a balanced way of living. .
Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out