Chapter 12: Freeing Yourself From Desire

If you put more than 5 distinct colors into any “look”
it will be too much for the human eye.
So sayeth Lao Tzu’s original Tao Te Ching.
Now, I’m no Tim Gunn, but I can appreciate
when an ancient poem suggests
that I take an editing eye to things.

5 notes of music deafens the ear, he says.
Well, if you’re following tertian harmony,
once you add on that fifth note (the 9th),
you’ve started adding dissonance into your chord.
You’d better be playing jazz.

5 ingredients are all you need to make the most invigorating food.

Heck, hunting for rare ingredients will drive you crazy, and it leads some folks to do bad stuff.

Therefore, the wisest among us seek to fill our bellies, instead of constantly hoping to create what we just saw on Food Network, no matter how fantastic it looked on the TV.

The magic delicious goodness levels of our imaginations do not equal the difference in actual price paid: either in money, time spent, or frustration.

(And for those who need it spelled out directly: It’s not about food when you’re hungry for more than that. Care for your current needs with what you have available to you, rather than ignoring what you have, constantly hoping for more and continuing to suffer.)

Chapter 11: Seemingly Useless & Worthless: The Hollow, Necessary, Nothing

It doesn’t matter how many spokes your bike tires have.
30 works if you’re feeling particularly Zen.
Regardless, it’s the open hole in the middle of the tire that allows the wheel to spin.
And isn’t that what matters?

The same thing goes for clay, plastic, glass, or polymer for that matter,
whether you’re making jars or cups or test tubes.
It’s the hollowness upon which the vessel’s utility depends.
Because, let’s face it, cups that are already full of something else don’t make for good drinking.
Heck, they’re hardly “cups” at all!

Another great place to see the necessary hollow in action is the home.
Cut the doors and windows from a house, and it is still simply real estate.
It’s what happens inside those walls that makes a house a home.
The stories and experiences we choose share with one another, when we could otherwise be alone are what build families and communities.

Likewise, while a material body is a necessary condition to our existence as human beings,
The true value of a life is so special as to be immaterial.
It cannot ever properly be compared to material things, such as money, no matter how much douchebag economists or airhead philosophers would like opine otherwise.

Chapter 9: In All Things, Moderation

If you fill a cup too much, even with the world’s best drink, you’re gonna spill some on yourself before you take a sip. And that ain’t cool. Sure, your cup runneth over, but the beer, man! THE BEER!!! Have some respect, for the drink and for yourself! Seriously.

Plan for every contingency to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that nothing is going to go wrong, and sure enough, there’s gonna be something you didn’t think about! The Universe laughs out loud when we make plans, us human schemers.

See, you can only sharpen a pencil so much before it breaks. Same’s true of axes, or well, anything you can sharpen. (Wit too!) It all eventually wears away.

Here in America in 2011, they like to say, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” But that is not the way of the Tao.

Because seriously, if you’re walking through the ghetto wearing some expensive shit, you’re asking to get mugged.

The Real Housewives of Whatever City (on Bravo!) are begging for misfortune according to the ancient text by showing off what they’ve got. But I guess that misfortune is exactly what makes for interesting “reality” TV… *shrug*

To attain true merit, to acquire just fame, the true personality must be secondary to whatever it is that is famous or important, and the person who is in the spotlight must not remain there forever. That is the Heavenly Way.

Chapter 8: The Nature of Goodness and Contentment

Water has it right.
It is calm, peaceful, and content when it is not being disrupted.
It dwells in the lowest places without shame, and benefits all things, impartially.
But humans are only mostly water, and while water’s way is like the Tao, we still have a little way to go.

See, a swanky beachside loft is only desirable because of its location,
and it’s only any good to you if you’ve got the money and the lifestyle to make good use out of it.
The same thing is true of having a quiet moment to yourself;
it’s no good if you can’t make your thoughts stop racing.
Nobody cares if you went to school or were good friends with celebrities or ridiculously rich people unless it somehow benefits them, and people care even less if you have political opinions unless you can actually do something timely to affect the situation in a positive way.

So, when trying to bring more goodness into the world, do not fight against your position in life, and fewer folks will find fault with your actions.

Well, I guess I can quit stressing about THAT.

For the longest time, I’ve been worried that I caused myself to have Multiple Sclerosis (and hence the accompanying seizure disorder) because of the amount of stress that I put myself under by going to law school.

Fortunately, I can rest easy, knowing that while I did push myself towards personal excellence and towards a career that I thought, at the time, was closer to a goal of financial security and more easily definable success, I did not cause myself to develop multiple sclerosis.

Researchers in Norway have discovered that while stress is a contributing factor to the likelihood of having a relapse in MS symptoms (more commonly referred to as an exacerbation or relapse), it is not a contributing factor to the likelihood of developing the disease in the first place.

Here’s the press released information about how they figured it all out:

“Researchers studied two groups of women nurses from the Nurses’ Health Study. The first group of 121,700 nurses between the ages of 30 and 55 were followed starting in 1976. The second group of 116,671 nurses between the ages of 25 and 42 were followed from 1989. Participants were asked to report general stress at home and at work, including physical and sexual abuse in childhood and as teenagers. Of the first group, 77 people developed MS by 2005. In the second group, 292 people developed the disease by 2004.

“The risk of MS is particularly high among young women, and the difference in the number of cases is consistent with the different ages of women in the two groups at the beginning of the MS follow-up,” said Riise.

After considering factors such as age, ethnicity, latitude of birth, body mass at age 18 and smoking, the study found that severe stress at home did not increase the risk of developing MS. There was also no significant increased risk in developing MS among those who reported severe physical or sexual abuse during childhood or adolescence.

“This rules out stress as a major risk factor for MS. Future research can now focus on repeated and more fine-tuned measures of stress,” said Riise, who conducted the research as a visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health.”

You can find the research is published in the May 31, 2011, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.