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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