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ROTW #7: The Journey of a Thousand Miles

(Yes, I'm a little behind in my journal entries for Religions of the World Class.  They're due Monday, along with a three-hour essay take-home Final exam.  So effectively, I have four more journal entries and three exam essays to write which represents another seven hours total of work.  Yikes, where did the time go!?)

As I read through the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu for my Religions of the World class, I occasionally found little “gems” (of wisdom?) that I would jot down on my memo pad.  Some were curious and I wanted to ask about them in class to better understand; others stood out because they struck a chord which resonated deep within me.  One such excerpt comes from Verse 153 in the 64th Chapter of Book Two:


“A journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one’s feet.”


This sounds very similar to something that either I’ve said countless times or have heard other adult sponsors telling teenagers over and over again on our various Journey To Adulthood (J2A) Pilgrimages: “It’s a journey, not a destination”.  Since me, my wife, and a very good friend have all represented on each of our pilgrimages from Grace Church so far (either all together, or in different iterations), it’s a pretty common theme for us to espouse.  [That Chrissie and I are huge fans of Aerosmith and always seem to hear Steven Tyler singing “Life’s a journey, not a destination” makes for a cool reference to the kids, especially when we sing it to them].


But if Tao (pronounced “Dow”) is both incomprehensible and nameless, with “The Way to The Way is The Way”, then it stands to reason, at least to me, that such a journey would begin “from beneath one’s feet”.  We go from where are, but may not necessarily end up where we thought we were going.  Things happen along the way.  We see things.  We hear things.  We want things.  We may walk or run toward those things we seek, want or must possess.  And we may turn away and run from those things we don’t want, need or even care for.  Just the journey is just that - a journey.


The passive, non-resistant existence of Tao, with its “go with the flow” approach to living seems very inviting.  We heard in class the belief that one can achieve great things without even trying.  Really?  Is that possible?  Perhaps it’s true in a cosmic way of thinking.  “Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail” (Tao Te Ching, Book One: Chap 3/v10).  To think life so simple that by yielding and being passive to flow with nature, to go with it rather than contend against it, could be The Way seems so contrary to life as I know it.  But wouldn’t it be grand and glorious if our culture in America could adopt this philosophy and seek to live life this way.


I have witnessed countless times when people try to enjoy themselves doing something meant to be fun and intended to bring them joy.  But, at the same time of the experience itself, they seem more than preoccupied with trying to capture those moments to preserve that experience. 


A number of years ago, Heart Of My Heart and I used three-day passes to brave the world that is Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  We spent the first two days mostly in Epcot, but finally ventured into the Magic Kingdom the last day.  I had remember Disney Land from my early childhood somewhat fondly (although the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride did leave me terrified of being trapped under water in a little submarine pinned down by tumbling boulders in water that probably wasn’t even five feet deep).  Our experience this day just outside Orlando was horrifying.  Videographers were pushing strollers that carried no children, oblivious to what was happening around them, except for what they could “see: through their view finder.  Not to mention they kept clipping the backs of my heels because they weren’t paying attention to where they were going. 


Geesh!  I had to get out of there.  I couldn’t “go with the flow” because the flow wasn’t going with me.  So I decided to yield my place among them, and we quickly retreated to calmer pastures and cooled our heels while sampling the cold malt beverages available in 'Bavaria'.


There are times when life is gets busy enough that I miss much of what is going on around me.  That’s my loss, and I have no one else to blame but myself.  It’s not often that I’m not the driver on an outing.  When I am a passenger, particularly to places I’ve not been before, I like to take time to look around and see things.  I realize I’m not out in it so to speak, so I can’t fully appreciate what I’m seeing.  The experience is limited by that.  But seeing may be the only option sometimes as it, whatever it is all flies by.  I remember my wife and I were driving a mini-van full of young boys in southwest USA, often yelling at them to “wake up and look out the window – you won’t see stuff like this back home in Virginia”.  Mostly when I drive now (especially in my convertible, with the top down, on lovely driving expanses like the GW Parkway), I will stick to the left right-hand lane, do the speed limit, and try not to press too hard to get where I’m going.  I enjoy the scenery too much and don’t want to miss something along the way.


My Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) experience at Goodwin House instilled in me the importance of being in the “here and now”.  And, as I have been known to say from time to time, “slow’s the way to go”.  I learned to slow my pace of walking, to sit longer than I might otherwise, to refrain from speaking and allow the quiet to sit with me and the other.  I’ve come to appreciate that when doing anything, I’d rather see it done right rather than fast, well rather than shoddily.  Life is a precious commodity, and we have no idea how long it is ours, how well it will go, how full is enough.  We can only take it one step at a time.  The choice is ours.  But with each step, look up to see.  Who’s to tell us that this journey in life will only be a thousand miles long? 


Life is a Journey, not a Destination.  Amen to that.  


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 28th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
isn't the RIGHT hand lane the slow one?
love, your directionally lysdexic bride
Jun. 29th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
You must've read what i wrote and ignored the hand signal I gave (tee hee)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )