Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Three Treasures - Compassion, Frugality, and Humility

This is an exploration of Treasure, real treasure. The 3 treasures. First let me briefly explain why I'm here. Some time in the last century I began studying Tai Chi with Elizabeth. 6 months into it, I felt something I'd never experience. This warm flowing movement internally. After class I was sharing my experience and my fellow students were like, oh, that's your chi, your internal energy. That feeling profoundly affected my perception of reality. I suddenly felt like I had been sleep walking my first 30 years.

A couple months later, a client of mine gave me a book he had just finished reading called the Tao Te Ching. I was raised a Christian but since I was young, I was always questioning certain beliefs in the bible. I was told you wee not to question it, just accept it. But I was really bothered. It felt wrong so I was called a rebel and that I just wanted to be different but it was really a deeply seated gut feeling that I didn't feel what I was being told was right. Suddenly I'm reading this book, the T.T.C., and the chills are running up my spine and the hair is standing up on the back of my neck. Here on paper are things I've believed my whole life and suddenly I'm not a rebel. There's an actual philosophy that I can read and explore.

I was so excited to go to class and share my new discovery with my fellow students only to get these blank stares like, are you serious? Turns out that Tai Chi is based on the T.T.C. and Taoism.

All under heaven say that I am great,
great but unconventional.

Precisely because I am unconventional,
I can be great;
If I were conventional,
I would long since have become a trifle.

I have always possessed three treasures
that I guard and cherish.
The first is compassion,
The second is frugality,
The third is not daring to be ahead of all under heaven.

Because I am compassionate,
I can be brave;
Because I am frugal,
I can be magnanimous;
Because I dare not be ahead of all under haven,
I can be a leader in the completion of affairs.

If, today, I were to
Be courageous while forsaking compassion,
Be magnanimous while forsaking frugality,
Get ahead while forsaking the hindmost,
that would be death!

For compassion
In war brings cictory,
In defense brings invulnerability.

Whomesoever heaven would establish,
It surrounds with a bulwark of compassion.
-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching - Victor H. Mair

The 3 treasures. Compassion, Frugality, and Humility. 3 things which come in quite handy if say, your country were to fall into a recession. 3 things which are flamboyantly missing from the current administration in the White House. Why are they considered to be treasures? Why are they important.

Compassion. It's certainly challenging to be compassionate is a world of 6 billion people, in a densely populated city of 3 million. Sitting in traffic jams. Stress and anger building. Homeless people at every stop light. From where can you draw the strength to be compassionate? Eastern philosophy teaches us that we are all inter connected. That we are all a part of everything. I was just reading about an aspect of Quantum physics, The string theory. All matter is made of tiny particles. Atoms made of Electrons and Quarks. The theory is that instead of point particles they are all vibrating strings looped together. Through the vibration, shape is formed. The vibration influences surrounding particles. There's a concept in Taoism that says patterns which exist on a micro level, also exist on a macro level. And it really is true how easy it is to be influenced by a mood in the room.

I also love the concept of the collective unconscious. Carl Yung talks about this as being a build up of shared experiences but I think it's much more ethereal than this. Your thoughts really do impact not only yourself, but a greater consciousness. I doubt know the precise method of how thoughts are created, processed, and transmitted but if it's a vibrational or electronic transmission, it doesn't seem farfetched that telepathy is probably on an unconscious level and possible on a conscious level.

Then there's also Karma. I don't think Karma is all that ethereal. It's common sense that actions create reactions and those reactions affect you.

Frugality. This isn't something the government wants you to practice. We live in a consumer society. Don't worry about savings or even debt, buy buy buy. it makes the world go round. Or so they'd have you believe. Last year Ford came out with it's new SUV, the Brontosaurus. So this year, GM came out with the Tyrannosaurus. In overcrowded cities, people want to stake their claim. Their entitlement. They want to have their space. In an attempt to be somebody, to stay ahead of the Jones they've lost touch with frugality. Of living within your means. Of sustainability. It's also a distraction from what is real. All the foods we over consume, all the new techno gadgets we buy, they're really a distraction from what's real. What it comes down to is what really makes us happy, content. Money is a man made concept so it isn't real. Work, even fulfilling, is a temporary fix. It comes down to consciousness. Reality is a perception. Right here right now in this moment, you can choose to be content. It's why I love Tai chi and meditation. In all the stresses of my life, I know through the experiences I've had with meditation and tai chi that through breath, through consciousness I can relax, be content. Frugality is about simplicity.

Humility. That's one that I really don't comprehend the opposite. I'm a commercial photographer. The last book which was published, Spa Cuisine, available at Barnes and Noble, my client came up to me during a book signing and commented you should really be proud of this book. I wasn't really sure how to respond because what flashed through my mind was everything that happened in order for the book to be made. My parents separated when I was young. My mother moved with her children to the city of St Louis where years later I befriend a photographer who happens to hand me his camera with a telephoto lens because there was a small chipmunk too far away to see except with the long lens. That moment, holding the camera to my eye was an epiphany. In that moment I became a photographer. But went on to major in accounting where a professor argued that if I was so passionate about photography, why not do it for a living. I dropped out of accounting and went to photo school. Graduated, Was going to be a starving artist until a stranger called, my little brother knows your little brother and we're looking for a commercial photography assistant. Then as a commercial photographer, I followed my girlfriend to chicago, Got married. Got divorced. My ex wife's husband hooked me up the client who I shot the book for.

Nature and nurture. Why we are who we are. It's so profound and complicated so to talk about a sense of pride in your accomplishments? Then of course there's the line from Grand Canyon. "The Grand Canyon. is laughing at me right now. You know what I feel like? I felt like a gnat that lands on the behind of a cow chewing his cud on the side of the road that you drive by doing 70 mph. " 6 billion people on a planet out of 8 in a solar system in a galaxy in an endless universe. Pride? The counter balance to that of course is an acceptance being an energetic part of everything.

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