Short Takes

A few miscellaneous thoughts to start with:

I don’t believe in God, not as conceived in Western religion. I agree with Bruce Lee: “If there is a God, he is within. You don’t ask God to give you things, you depend on God for inner theme.”

A good philosophy is not static, never final or completed. To have any value, it must be dynamic and continually evolve just as life itself is dynamic and constantly changing. A philosophy is good when it probes with penetrating discernment into life’s complex matrix of relationship and experience. However, even a good philosophy is not perfect. If anyone waited for perfection before presenting a philosophy for the benefit of others, it would never be expressed.

Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now was a best seller a few years ago. Buddha taught the Power of Now 2500 years ago. He called it mindfulness. The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When mindfulness shines its light upon our activity, we recover ourselves and encounter life in the present moment. The present moment is a wonderful moment . . .”

My mind is imperfect. It is often scattered, confused, chaotic, cluttered . . . If I practiced more mindfulness, my mind would still be imperfect, but it would be less scattered and confused. It is said that mindfulness is protection from the fangs of wild animals. The beast I face is none other than me.

I like Taoism. Tao is referred to as the Way and points to the way things are, the way of the universe. However, there can be no precise definition of Tao. The Book of Tao begins: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.” Tao is everywhere, but it can’t be found.

Wu wei is a Taoist concept that means loosely “doing nothing.” It doesn’t mean literally not doing anything, but rather knowing when to take action and when not, and to be aware of the natural rhythm of things. Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, said that by doing nothing one can accomplish everything.

There’s a great little movie called the Tao of Steve. It’s about an under-achiever who fashions a philosophy based on Steve McQueen. At one point Dex, the lead character, says, “Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler. He did a lot. But don’t we all wish he woulda just stayed home and gotten stoned?”

Steve McQueen once said, “I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.”

When we change, the world changes, because all things in the world have an inter-dependent relationship, so there is no real separation between our life and the life of the world. When we idealize someone like Buddha, we are actually idealizing our own best nature. It’s helpful to have a model or a standard to strive for. In this sense, Buddha is a tool to help us be, as Gandhi said, “the change in the world you wish to see.”


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