Friday, August 23, 2013
As I see it, all work is meaningless and trivial and all work is meaningful and important. If you can only see your work as meaningful and important and cannot see that it is also meaningless and trivial, I don’t envy you. I also don’t envy you if you can only see your work as meaningless and trivial and cannot see that it is also meaningful and important. Both of these ways of seeing work seem to invite unnecessary suffering.
The key to Taoism as I practice it is to accept a synthesis of opposites instead of choosing sides when it comes to dichotomies like this. To see that one is competitive and cooperative, selfish and altruistic, free and limited, separate and one with everything, violent and peaceful, lustful and loving, powerful and powerless, weak and strong, greedy and generous, and that one’s work is meaningful and meaningless, trivial and important…to me this is the key to balance and balance is the key to living the kind of life I want to live.
I think balance is the underlying state and highest expression of Nature. Not balance as a static peaceful “thing”. I mean balance as an ongoing ruthless process, forever in motion, forever changing, stopping at nothing to continue its own movement, inherently antithetic to the individual, interested, if it’s possible to use that word here, only in its own beauty and self expression. Literally, nothing can stop it. To it, you do not matter. “You” don’t even exist. It is all and everything, constantly changing into a new arrangement of itself. Individual forms come and go and are replaced by newer ones. Ask a dinosaur or the two or three generations of star births and deaths that it took just to produce enough heavy metals to allow planets to form. Balance is all Nature does. What got it going, I have no idea, but once in motion, it has been responding to that motion and will probably continue to seek balance forever.
If you see that balance, the ongoing synthesis of opposites best illustrated by the yin/yang symbol, is the underlying state of the Universe and you want to get with that state and want to consciously feel that state while you are still alive and in this form, I recommend putting more “ands” in your life and less “either ors”. It’s always both, not one or the other. One side of the equation might be all but invisible, but it’s there and will be manifest before too long. It has to. Nature is always seeking balance. So be like Nature and seek balance consciously and you’ll see that it’s everywhere, always just out of reach, always requiring one more correction. And then another.
Of course your work is meaningful and important, no matter what it is. It’s allowing you to survive and express the unfolding balancing act of Nature. It might even be allowing you do so consciously and in a way that brings you real joy. And, of course your work is meaningless and trivial. We’re all gonna die and eventually there will be very little trace of you or anything you ever did. Forms do not last, including yours. Our sun will die, or explode. There will be an enormous asteroid hit or some other cataclysmic or biological event. We might even manage to exterminate our own species. But one way or another every form will be crushed and replaced by newer forms in Nature’s endless dance.
When I see my work both ways, each way helps temper and tames the other in a way that produces something good and healthy in me as a result. Seeing it as meaningful and important gives me energy to continue and challenges me to solve problems and develop myself and my life skills. Seeing it as meaningless and trivial keeps me from carrying too heavy a burden of responsibility and from getting too full of my own will and power, which are, in the end, temporary and kind of small. The dynamic tension between these poles is where I do my best to live. There is a kind of “rest” when I do this. Rest from the struggle to deny the other side of the equation. But there is another sense in which there is no rest at all, at least not from the ongoing corrections and vibrations that arise from this ongoing tension. It’s a kind of work in itself to do this and like all work, it is meaningful and important, but also meaningless and trivial.