Ol Man River- (Reblogged from Peter and Paul)

Ol’ Man River (This is Reblogged from Stan Kapuscinski’ s Peter and Paul)

Few maxims are as misunderstood as the wisdom of non-interference. It may have begun with Lao Tsu, and later picked up by Isaiah, with the same intent. Much later Oscar Hammerstein echoed the ancient wisdom.

We start with the pursuit of Tao: that elusive Unknown that resides in our Unconscious.

“In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.
True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can’t be gained by interfering.”

The “pursuit of knowledge” is an attempt of our ego to make do without relying on the input from our Unconscious. The problem is that knowledge deals almost exclusively with what is dead; or with the empty space of which we are made, and which surrounds us. Or even with the light from stars millions of light-years away, which possibly had long ceased to exist.

When Lao Tsu says that “nothing is done, nothing left undone”, we have arrived at the gate of the Unconscious, and have become instruments of the Infinite.

The words are echoed in Isaiah’s Psalm 23.

“The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leadeth me by the still waters,
He restoreth my soul…
… my cup runneth over. ”

The Lord symbolizes Infinite Potential within the Unconscious. The “green pastures” assure us of never having to struggle. The “still waters” refer to the peace of mind, and “my soul” is, of course, the Subconscious, or the experience we have gathered from the beginning of time.

When eventually “our cup runneth over,” we return home.

And then Oscar Hammerstein:

“Old Man River, Old Man River,
He don’t say nothing, he must know sometin’
Old Man River, he just keeps rollin’ along
You know, you know he don’t plant taters
And we all know the man don’t plant no cotton
And then, then they plant ’em
Oh the Lord knows they are soon forgotten
But Old Man River, he just keeps rollin’ along.”

Truth must be continuously rediscovered. Ol’ Man River symbolizes the eternal Tao. The “Ol’ Man” does nothing—what we do, all knowledge, is soon forgotten.

Perhaps in a few millions years we shall accept that we are instruments of the Eternal Flow, which carries the intent which is, and might forever remain, unknown; even as our mind cannot encompass the universe. Perhaps we might be consoled that we are indispensable drops of water in the Mighty River that flows eternally; that continuously covers new grounds, and eventually returns to the Eternal Ocean from which we all once emerged. Yet every drop is indispensable to carve a new bed, to round new corners, to deepen some parts, erode others. We are all indispensable.

It is not a bad way to be.


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Author: philipparees

A writer ( mostly narrative poetry) of fiction and non-fiction. Self publisher of fiction and Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God (Runner-up Book of the Year (2013), One time builder ( Arts centre) Mother of four daughters: Companion of old man and old dog: One time gardener, lecturer, wannabe cellist, mostly enquirer of 'what's it all about', blogger and things as yet undiscovered.

4 thoughts on “Ol Man River- (Reblogged from Peter and Paul)”

  1. I don’t suppose we have a choice but to sit by the River. I skip stones across it. Nothing one can do to avoid it. I read this and think to myself, Of what use have I been to Philippa? A little turbulence of ego, a ripple from my heart. Any trace of anyone is erased as Ole’ Man River just keeps rolling along. This brings comfort and serenity. I think of the practice of Buddhistic sand paintings, and know that relation to nature is the correct one. What are all these words but arrangements of colored sands. The river keeps rolling, the wind keeps blowing. Everything in flux. Nothing permanent. There’s no such thing as eternity in words.

    Puts me in mind of the whole idea of authorship. What’s in a name? Why all these court cases of fights over “intellectual property”? In the grand scheme of things, in truth, what is intellectual property anyway? Do the highest things belong to anyone? The air we breathe? Gravity itself? Perhaps the only thing we can truly call our own, and sign our names to, are our mistakes, errors, shortcomings, idiosyncrasies, oddities, anomalies. But if this is flipped around, and we consider that what we do are manifestations of the larger nature which we all share in, the river flowing through us, it is vanity to sign one’s name to it.

    Simone Weil from her essay “Human Personality”: “So far from its being his person, what is sacred in a human being is the impersonal in him.
    Everything which is impersonal in man is sacred, and nothing else.
    …Gregorian chant, Romanesque architecture, the Iliad, the invention of geometry were not, for the people through whom they were brought into being and made available to us, occasions for the manifestation of personality.
    When science, art, literature, and philosophy, are simply the manifestation of personality they are on a level where glorious and dazzling achievements are possible, which can make a man’s name live for thousands of years. But above this level, far above, separated by an abyss, is the level where the highest things are achieved. These things are essentially anonymous.
    It is pure chance whether the names of those who reach this level are preserved or lost; even when they are remembered they have become anonymous. Their personality has vanished.”


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