Friday, September 11, 2009

Life Is...

1. Life is water, not stone: Be flexible with people and situations; be prepared to feel moods change and to see your perspectives change over time. Be prepared for life to suddenly end; be prepared for it to suddenly begin. Be prepared for sickness while healthy, and for health while sick. Be prepared for danger amid safety, for sadness amid joy, and joy amid sadness. In the center of the moving wheel of change, remain true to your awareness of the sacredness of life and the land and the necessity of things that come to pass. The living tree bends in the wind.

2. Life is exchange and communion, not grasping and hording: be generous with material things, as far as you can be. Furthermore, don't dam up your own life-force and vitality; give and exchange, combine and flow. This is the nature of nature. You help others by being a channel of power, and you are helped in the exchange, even if you don't see it at first. Remember, countless other powers- seen and unseen- donate themselves to you and your well-being. The living tree freely gives fruit and seed and receives abundant water and sunlight.

3. Life is principled, not chaotic. Sky arches over earth, earth under sky; water and light and heat play between them and within them. One force moves, and sustains countless others- forces converge to create and destroy, upholding the sovereign harmony of the whole. This is not meaningless chaos; it is a sublime natural order, sacred and perfect; it is the inter-weaving of a divine organism that is simply too complete and powerful for human senses to really grasp fully, except in moments of mystical clarity.

The principles of human life can be seen in the earth and sky, where they were originally sung and written; man and woman produce a child; earth and sky produce all life- countless children. Sky and earth alternate from darkness to light, day to night, winter to summer- men and women alternate from youth to old age, from calm to angry, from foolish to wise, from dead to alive.

We should learn from our human parents; respect them, and protect them, like any kin; just so, we should learn from the land and sky, respect them and protect them, too. Parents teach; so does nature. Parents show us how to be dignified, respectful beings; the earth and sky and the other natural powers do the same, when we take our place among them. Parents protect us; so do the mighty non-human powers, powers that are experienced in the storm, the rush of water from under rock, the blazing sun, and in the world-whispers of wind in trees. The living tree grows by a sacred natural order, with undying dignity in its every branch or leaf.

4. Life is cooperation, not merely competition. We are all parts of the same whole. All beings serve the goodness and well-being of every other being or power, in some way. Some die to be food for others; some keep a predator in check that would destroy others, some prey on others, and some create food or shelter for others in some manner. Some destroy the dead wood, letting new growth come in. Some create warmth, some create fertile grounds for reproduction, and some protect others. Greater powers unseen, along with the powers in the sky and under the ground and seas, also move in ways that make life possible.

Beings of the same kind and kin are intended by design to consciously cooperate for the good of others of like kind, and in a broader sense, for the good of all. Cooperation seen this way is a joy- a sacred duty- not a burden. We rely on many; many rely on us.

Honoring different people for their dignity and achievements, for their blessings and abilities, and giving back as we best can, is part of cooperation. Society is sustained in this way: All people are different but all people have a role. According to people the respect their role merits is virtue; according hospitality and protection to family, friends, and even strangers of good will is an expression of our essential being, and an expression of nature's great will. The living tree makes life possible for others, and stands steady in a forest of many different trees.

5. Life is conscious and sovereign, not lame and accidental. The seeds of life are not cast about by a chaotic wind; they find purchase according to the mysterious urgings of the massive weave of sacred power, and they all grow into living entities whose births, lives, and deaths are conscious acts of being and creativity, not random, meaningless acts. The living beings of any world are needed for the completion of the world. Consciously disrupting life without a reason that spares other life is contrary to the natural order of human activity, or the activity of any rational, conscious creature- and lacking in gentleness, except in situations of true peril, is a violation. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible. The living tree was meant to live.

6. Life is depth, not just surface. For everything that is seen, nine things are unseen; the hills are hollow, the land is haunted with spiritual powers whose presence can be felt still today, just as they were in ancient times. Life has many dimensions; human beings and other entities have many dimensions; to think we "know" all there is to know about a person or a creature by only observing their appearance or behavior, or studying what we call their "elemental composition", is the height of ignorance. To capture the full vision of life, we must go below the surface, to the sources of things. There, in hidden dimensions, the essence of Truth, the distilled wisdom and reality of the past and present is stored. We must then return, bringing a vision of truth and depth back to the world that we all know, making what is seen and unseen complete. The living tree has roots that run deep.

7. Life is poetry, not monotony. When a person knows how to listen to the world and feel the world, they hear pure poetry and feel the timeless sublimity of it all. When a person can only hear voices or sounds apart from the world, they only experience labels and measures, echoes of echoes and shadows of ideas- all experiences which are ghostly traces and lacking in the essence of living art. The world is not withholding its power from us; we are using broken senses out of habit, and never receiving more than a tenth or a hundredth of what we could be experiencing. Thus, the world can appear quite banal or monotonous. But this is a great disguise, and the poetic art that shatters that disguise is the greatest of arts. The living tree makes natural, pure poetry by its standing, its growing, its leaves shaking, its blossoms opening.

8. Life is boundless, not a finite field of matter. You cannot place boundaries on life or the world without instantly becoming aware of the immensity beyond your stopping point- and how that "beyond" has an intimate relationship to what you hold within boundaries. The living web of sacred powers that is this world has no edge; it has no limits. The vast and infinite spirit of nature is the very reason why we never tire of beauty- one may watch a lifetime of sunsets or full moons riding through the clouds, and never tire of the spectacle. One never grows weary of the majesty of mountains or the depths of forests. The living tree possesses a beauty that is ageless, born of a spirit that is infinite.

9. Life is you. You are the living tree.

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As you can see, these nine poetic statements all discuss virtue in terms of "life"- the Living Way- and they encapsulate a rationale for the traditional ancestral virtues:

Poetic Statement 1: Courage and flexibility or forbearance

Poetic Statement 2: Generosity and fertility

Poetic Statement 3: The doctrine of organic order/Fate and nature as teacher

Poetic Statement 4: Social virtue (common welfare/group reliance) and hospitality

Poetic Statement 5: The sacredness of life

Poetic Statement 6: Wisdom and ancestral piety

Poetic Statement 7: Poetry, song and creativity as a sacred and fundamental aspect of human society and endeavor

Poetic Statement 8: Awe and respect for the natural world

Poetic Statement 9: The final mystery of identity.

1 comment:

  1. This is really lovely, and a succinct compilation of values. Thanks, and well done.