Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Living Without Rules

Last night I was in my back yard breaking up stale bread for the birds. The sun had set but there was still some daylight. While standing on the patio I realized there was an experience that I had not shared with my granddaughter Chloe yet. Throughout my backyard were the unmistakable yellow glow of lightening bugs. I thought to myself, "Chloe would be freaking out if she were here. She would be chasing them all over the place". I think her next overnighter will be on the 4th of July. I must remember to introduce her to the world of lightening bugs. Since she also likes to sit on my porch and watch ants, I was thinking of buying her an ant farm so she can watch them as they go about their digging and tunneling. I recently saw a story on the CBS Sunday Morning News where a guy was studying ants. He would look for these huge ant mounds that were sitting over myriad tunnels carved out by all the ant workers. He would melt aluminum and then pour the molten aluminum down the ant holes. The bad news is that this process would kill all the ants. The good news is that he would end up with a mold of the ant tunnels. These would become pieces of art plus other scientists would study the intricate and sophisticated complexes as a way to increase our human knowledge of architecture. The detail and fragility of the ant worlds as captured in these molds was extraordinary. They were as sophisticated as any human architecture.

Seemingly contrary to my love of rock and roll music is my love of the natural silence to be found at the beginning and the end of each day. I am not a big fan of getting out of bed but once up I cherish the early morning silence, my first sip of coffee, reading a paragraph or two from an inspiring book, and the peacefulness of simply sitting for fifteen minutes or so before I leave my home for the morning commute. It's a great way to start my day. Life was not always this peaceful. Once I was a full time parent and there were children to wake up, get dressed, feed, and take to daycare or school. I am older now and I have survived those years so quiet mornings are my reward. Later, after the busyness of my work day, my day ends with more silence and calm. There are no children to feed, help with homework, or send off to bed. I am the only child left in the house now except when Chloe is visiting.

My wife went out to dinner with friends last night so most of the evening I was alone. I ate a simple dinner, watched a couple of music concerts, going from the complex sounds of the progressive band "Yes" to the mellow, acoustic sounds of James Taylor. In between musical notes I read from the Tao Te Ching, baked a turkey, and wrote these daily thoughts. Who says I can't be productive? All in all, it was a wonderful night. As far as the turkey goes, my apologies to all my vegetarian friends. Verse 18 of the Tao Te Ching is entitled "Living Without Rules". This reminds me of something my wife once said. She used to work for the company I work for now. I have been here nearly 23 years. She lasted one year. One of her observations while working here was "I have never worked anywhere where there were so many rules". Part of the point of the 18th verse of the Tao Te Ching is to ask if we really need rules to tell us how to live. Lao Tzu says, "If you need rules to be kind and just, if you just act virtuous, this is a sure sign that virtue is absent. Thus we see the great hypocrisy". I'm not a guy that likes rules but as a member of society I follow those rules designed to support order and maintain safety. When it comes to my actions, my rule is my heart. It is my heart that compels me to act compassionately, kindly, fairly, and to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Certainly there are spiritual teachings that support this but it is my heart that drives such behavior. Why is this so difficult for some people?

Where is the master? Gathering herbs, off on the mountain, hidden by clouds.
-Zen saying

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