Wednesday, August 31, 2005


There is an ancient quarrel that finds echoes in the mind-- and this, especially after each newest recurrence of devastation and carnage. There are many different variations. But for me there are now basically only two voices left—clamorous, ferocious. One is Job's interrogator:

3: Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
4: Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
5: Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
6: Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7: When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8: Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
9: When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
10: And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
11: And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

With, I suppose, the punch line here:

9: Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?

The other is what we encounter in Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching:

Heaven and earth do not act from (the impulse of) any wish to be
benevolent; they deal with all things as the dogs of grass are dealt

That said, with each passing year, I find myself siding more with Chuang Tzu when it comes to the practical consequences:

3. Zhui Khü 2 asked Lâo Tan, saying, 'If you do not govern the world, how can you make men's minds good?' The reply was, 'Take care how you meddle with and disturb men's minds. The mind, if pushed about, gets depressed; if helped forward, it gets exalted. Now exalted, now depressed, here it appears as a prisoner, and there as a wrathful fury. (At one time) it becomes pliable and soft, yielding to what is hard and strong; (at another), it is sharp as the sharpest corner, fit to carve or chisel (stone or jade). Now it is hot as a scorching fire, and anon it is cold as ice. It is so swift that while one is bending down and lifting up his head, it shall twice

And this version is more to my liking (pdf):

Tsui Chi asked Lao Tan [Lao Tzu], saying," If the empire is not to be governed, how are men's hearts to be kept good?"

"Be careful," replied Lao Tan, "not to interfere with the natural goodness of the heart of man. Man's heart may be forced down or stirred up. In each case the issue is fatal. By gentleness, the hardest heart may be softened. But try to cut and polish it, and it will glow like fire or freeze like ice. In the twinkling of an eye it will pass beyond the limits of the Four seas. In repose, it is profoundly still; in motion, it flies up to the sky. Like an unruly horse, it cannot be held in check. Such is the human heart.

My way of saying, it is only natural that all of us come to need a bit of help sometimes. Please give as generously as you can.

The American Red Cross

The Mercy Corp.

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