Thursday, May 13, 2010


You Can Have It.

I'm after balance, the unforced kind, the kind that isn't held in place with force or discipline. The kind that flows naturally out of the ongoing balancing act of Nature. Since nothing in this Universe is still, it seems clear that balance too must be a verb not a noun. Something to seek but not to find or hold on to. In fact the act of keeping one's balance, even when simply standing, involves many, many tiny or not so tiny corrections. Better balancing does not mean no more corrections, just smaller ones. Balance is something I'm always losing. Balancing is something I'm always doing.

In my practice of T'ai-Chi, my music, this blog, my marriage, my friendships, I am looking for the unforced balance that includes everything and excludes nothing. I am not after "enlightenment" as some final or permanent state of being beyond the corrections and evolving nature of being. I don't believe in such a state and if it does exist, I don't want any part of it.

I'm not interested in the elimination of the self or the ego, or of what is called evil. In my view these things are all part of life and are impossible to eliminate. What is commonly called "evil" for instance is essentially selfishness. Lust, greed, violence, thievery, etc. are all forms or degrees of selfishness. Selfishness looks to me to be wired into us as human beings. I've never met a person devoid of self interest or devoid of these qualities we call "evil".

Again and again, so called "spiritual" teachers, gurus and the like are shown to be just as self interested as the next person, perhaps even more so. Again and again, "spiritual" teachers sleep with their students, lie about their affairs, or their finances, or their motives. And again and again people "surrender" to these teachers who profess to know how to reach "enlightenment", what our "true nature" is, or how to "transcend" the ego. (Personally, I've found followers of guru's generally to be more self interested that most people, more passive aggressive, more competitive, less trustworthy, and less in touch with their emotions.)

I think that to have an ego is to be human. To be lustful is to be human. To be angry is to be human. To be violent, to be selfish, to be greedy, to be competitive, these are all part of being a human being. So is to be loving, cooperative, compassionate, friendly, kind and generous. To be human is to be all of these things and all of these things are, at times, conducive to survival. The key to me is balance, not the elimination of the "negative" aspects of myself. It seems futile try to exclude or eliminate the "dark" stuff. It only gets darker, sneakier, and more powerful the more I try to exclude it. Instead, I accept all these things called "evil" in me. I accept that they are part of me and always will be. I also accept all the things we call "good". By accepting and including my whole self, I invite unforced balance into my life.

That is why this blog, which is called "The Unforced Life" includes musings on Nature as well as musings about tattoos, and rants about being sick of The Beatles. There are pictures of album covers, pop stars, porn stars, cicadas and things made of teak wood. Nothing that is a part of life, or my life, is excluded from consideration here. Balance includes everything. And everything is tempered by its opposite or will be soon. There is a time for reverence and a time for irreverence, a time for discipline and a time for slack, a time to be "good" and a time to be "bad". Choosing one over the other, or trying to eliminate one or the other is not only impossible, it's incredibly wasteful. Why fight myself? I do my best to let myself be and only step in to interfere with myself when I feel I absolutely have to.

Forceful, willful self-improvement can be productive but it is not what Taoism is about. At least not my Taoism. To me Taoism is not about discipline, or achievement, or about being virtuous or "good". It is about being natural and unforced, and accepting the unknowable mystery at the heart of existence. It means "going with the flow" even though we have no idea where it's going, where it's been, or what its purpose is. It means accepting the contradictions inherent in being human. The whole New Age Puritan obsession with purification is, in my view, doomed to failure.

But what the Hell, everything is doomed to failure. If you want to try and purify yourself, transcend your ego and your separateness, be my guest. I don't think you or anyone else will ever succeed, but if that's your calling, give it your best shot. If, on the other hand, you want to accept your ego, your "evil", and your separateness, as well as your "oneness" with everything and your "goodness", without making an ideology of either; if you want to accept them as different aspects of your reality, to be experienced when they occur and moved on from when they do not, then I invite you to look into the amount of force you use in your life and see if you can use less. My experience is that the less force I use in my life the better my balancing.

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