The most skilled healer

According to an old story, a lord of ancient China once asked his physician, a member of a family of healers, which of them was the most skilled in the art.

The physician, whose reputation was such that his name became synonymous with medical science in China, replied:

“My eldest brother sees the spirit of sickness and removes it before it takes shape, so his name does not get out of the house.

My elder brother cures sickness when it is still extremely minute, so his name does not get out of the neighbourhood.

As for me, I puncture veins, prescribe potions, and massage skin, so from time to time my name gets out and is heard among the lords.”

[From Thomas Cleary's introduction to Chinese classic "The Art of War" (Sunzi Bingfa)]

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Michael Dowd on TEDx – Why we struggle now.

The evolutionary evangelist continues to impress. Here he discusses an evolutionary perspective on the stubbornness of our human condition  – sin – in a recent talk for TEDx Grand Rapids.

“Prior to microscopes, it wasn’t just difficult to understand infection, it was impossible. Prior to telescopes, it wasn’t just difficult to understand the large scale structure of the universe, it was impossible. Two or three hundred years ago it wasn’t just difficult to understand our evolved nature, it was impossible.”

“History will show that the greatest psychological and spiritual realisation – revelation – of our time is the understanding that human beings have instincts like all other animals do and if we don’t understand appreciate and respectfully manage – that is honour and harness our inherited drives, we are bound to be enslaved to them.

What you resist persists, but what you can be grateful for – honour – can transform and empower you.”

 

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Zane Lang encounters Zane Lang

“Zane Lang encounters Zane Lang”, a film by Patrick Royal:

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Parallel sayings – storing and hoarding

[Matthew 6:19, TNIV]
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

[Tao Te Ching 44, Ursula Le Guin]
Which is nearer, name or self?
Which is dearer, self or wealth?
Which gives more pain, loss or gain?
All you grasp will be thrown away.
All you hoard will be utterly lost.

The parallel sayings are similar in exhorting us not to store up or grasp things, or become attached to reputation or power. They both point out the transience of a purely material life, and the need to develop a deeper and longer view of lifes purpose.

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Parallel wisdoms – centeredness

[Tao Te Ching 8 Star]
Live in accordance with the nature of things:
Build your house on solid ground
Keep your mind still
When giving, be kind
When speaking, be truthful
When ruling, be just
When working, be one-pointed
When acting, remember –  timing is everything

[Tao Te Ching 8 Mitchell]
In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

[Matthew 7: 24 NIV]
Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

[Ephesians 4: 22 NIV]
… be made new in the attitude of your minds … speak truthfully to your neighbour … doing something useful with your [their] own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

 

All these scriptures relate to centeredness: stillness, simplicity and solidity. The idiom of building on the solid is virtually identical, despite the extensive cultural differences between the New Testament and the Tao Te Ching (5th Century BCE China).

One point of difference is that the Tao (in Jonathan Star’s rendering at least) manages to communicate quite some humour, whether intentionally or via translation, I am not sure.

 

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Parallel Wisdoms – Love

[1 Cor 13 NIV]
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

[Tao Te Ching 67 Mitchell]
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.

Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

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The Tao Testament – Parallel Wisdoms 2

[Matthew 5:8 NIV]

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

[Tao Te Ching 3 Star]

When action is pure and selfless
Everything settles into its own perfect place

 

Hugely interpreted, widely misunderstood, the Matthew saying of Jesus yields seemingly endless meanings.”Purity” is often read as moral rectitude, religious conformity, or pious otherworldliness. But these approaches seem to miss the essence.

Setting the Tao alongside the Gospel helps bring a wider vision of living in accord with the way of things rather than in constant opposition to them, as is often the case in dualistic religious practice.

Its a fruitful line of enquiry to ask how “seeing God” might have an equivalence with “things being settled”.

For example, “righteousness” might be expressed as (to quote Radiohead) “everything in its right place”, rather than a more moralistic, excluding, and judgemental reading.

 

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