Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Picking Up Sticks

The following is the 7th verse of the TaoTe Ching.

Heaven is eternal, the earth endures.Why do heaven and earth last forever?They do not live for themselves only.This is the secret of their durability.For this reason the sage puts himself last and so ends up ahead.He stays a witness to life, so he endures.Serve the needs of others, and all your needs will be fulfilled.Through selfless action, fulfillment is attained.

This verse is basically about living beyond your own ego. Many people in our culture are consumed with an attitude that considers "success" the attainment of power, prestige, and possessions and that these things will provide happiness and prevent unhappiness. Identifying exclusively with the physicality of life and basing our existence on acquiring and achieving things disregards our infinite nature and limits our awareness of the Tao. Make an attempt to reverse your ego's hold on you by practicing the Tao's teaching to "serve the needs of others, and all your own needs will be fulfilled".

Today is "hump day" for the working man and woman. I am already on the downhill slide in my mind. I have decided to take a vacation day on Friday from my day job. It will not be the typical Michael day. I will spend a good part of the day walking around in my back yard picking up twigs and sticks that have fallen from my trees during the winter and spring storms. It will be simple work done in a simple way but when I am done I will probably feel more satisfaction than I do on a normal work day in my office. After I pick up all the yard waste and rake a few leaves, I will easily be able to see the fruit of my labor. I will haul all the bags of leaves and bundles of sticks out to the street for the recycle man. When all that is done the yard will be ready for the first mowing of the spring and summer seasons. As I have lamented before, most office work in our information and data driven world is virtual and offers little satisfaction. Today's success lasts overnight at best. When the morning reports are run, yesterday's success is old news and new challenges are presented. Of course, as fleeting as success can be in the modern workplace, so is much of life. New twigs and sticks will fall from my trees and replace the ones I will pick up. Freshly mowed lawns grow back in a week or so. Much of life is emptying what is filled and filling what is empty whether it is refrigerators or gasoline tanks in our cars. Full stomachs will eventually feel hunger and clean clothes will become dirty again. All of this is part of the rhythm of life and our daily work is never really done. The beat of life and the rhythms of our daily rituals creates the music of our lives.

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