Broken Bowl, Repaired

A few months ago, I was killing time by meandering through the Columbia Museum of Art one Sunday (free admission day!), babywearing Espen while he napped (the quiet and dimness of the museum was so soothing to him), while Eric was in a meeting with a client. I make a point to drop into the Asian art rooms every time I go because the pieces there — pottery, statues of horses and gods and buddhas, jade tablets etched with gold — are so satisfying and soothing. It’s the understatement that resonates with me, the simplicity of monochromatic hues and lines belying complex processes, techniques, and symbolism.

It must have been there a while, but it was the first time I noticed it — a simple celadon-hued ceramic bowl with seemingly haphazard golden veins streaking the surface. Struck by its idiosyncratic beauty, I read the card beside it to learn more. It was a kintsugi bowl — a regular bowl that had broken and was repaired using lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold. I’d never come across anything like it before, and the meaning behind the technique hit me hard — the bowl, average in wholeness, when broken became singularly exquisite. The lines created an interesting pattern in an otherwise run-of-the-mill object, the gold complemented by the muted hue around it. Rather than covering the cracks up, the repairer celebrated them, honored them.

As notable writer on Japanese ceramics Christy Bartlett explains:

Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated… a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin….Mushin is often literally translated as “no mind,” but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. …The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject.

This is a lesson for everyone, about everything. It hits home for me personally because I often struggle with feelings of inadequacy because I’m not (nor can I be) perfect. I have made mistakes — some big, some small — and, even beyond mistakes, I am extremely quirky. I’m also fairly vain because I tend to be insecure. Throughout high school especially, I tried so hard to project normalcy; I publicly distanced myself from anything geeky or weird for much of my adolescence. I wanted to be accepted in the mainstream, to embody that wholesome lifestyle that our culture projects and applauds in various ways.

But, to paraphrase Cyndi Lauper, I am so unusual. And I’ve been learning, a little at a time, that that’s okay. It’s also okay for me to make mistakes. It’s okay for me to not try so hard to be the ideal others want me to be that I walk on eggshells around people out of fear of offending them. Of course, that’s not to say that I (or anyone else) has carte blanche to be cruel or rude or bigoted or prejudicial. It just means that it’s okay for me to accept that some people will always be prone to criticism and maljudgement, and that it’s not my job to kowtow to the rest of the world in a solitary effort to keep the peace. I will always strive to be kind and to become a better person than I’ve been, but I also have to acknowledge that it’s a process and that I am the sole person who gets to define what “better” means for me.

I have been broken. I am fusing myself back together. And I’m using gold to do it so that people can see the cracks that have been made. Because the cracks are the experiences that allow me to become better than I was — more interesting, kinder, and wiser. So that the repaired bowl is more beautiful than the original.

I don’t want to glorify brokenness per se. A bowl in pieces is useless — it serves no one and nothing, least of all itself. It’s when it’s put back together that it becomes stronger and more beautiful. It’s also important to note that a broken object repaired with mortar is less appealing, and a bowl repaired with Scotch tape is less durable, than one repaired with lacquer and gold. Not all repair mediums are created equal — the beauty and strength of the repair depends on these. I’ve had help — various people and ideas have gone into the repair work — but the main two have been Taoism and a supportive partner. With these as support, I fought against the things that drove the pieces of me apart, and I’ve replaced them with the wisdom that (and this is just an example list):

– everything has an equal-but-opposite counterpart that depends necessarily on its other in a cycle to exist
– beauty is not only relative but also not all that important
– relaxing and accepting things as they are — people, world events, change — is to my benefit (and I still struggle daily with this)
– I don’t have to wave a banner for every single issue (or for any issue in particular) to be valuable
– perfection does not exist, and I should not expect myself (or anyone else) to be perfect

No, I am not perfect; I am not the ideal anything, nor will I ever be. I am, however, mostly repaired. I’m still getting some of the pieces fitted back into their places — and some of the pieces have been lost and need(ed) to be replaced, or the spaces they’ve created may just be left open to let the air pass through — but I’m not the shattered person I once was. I am better, more whole. I am more understanding of weakness and flaws in others because of my understanding of my own, and I will be able to teach my son things that are good for him to know because of where I’ve been. To go even further, I am good and deserving of goodness, at least as much as anyone else is.

So this is my message to the world:

You may have shattered at some point; or you may just get chipped now and then. Either way, we all have broken at least a little in the past. It’s inevitable. But you can be repaired; you may already have been repaired, or at least started the work. I don’t expect you to be perfect — my version or anyone else’s. Just be sure that the medium you use to repair yourself makes you feel more whole — peaceful, compassionate, satisfied, less angry and seeking confrontation, and so on. If it fuels anxiety or indignation or self-righteousness or shame, it’s not going to hold. If it makes you feel enlightened (particularly in the sense of removing weight — darkness will always be there, but the weight of it doesn’t have to be), understanding, and accepting, it’ll make you stronger and better. It’s okay to let the cracks show.

A Note On Understanding

 

Family. Kristin Vestgard, oil on canvas, 2006.

The following is an abridged version of an editorial I wrote for American Athenaeum Magazine’s “The Understanders” issue in Winter 2012.

The summer before last, a high school friend of my husband, who was also becoming a friend of mine, asked me one night, out of the blue, “How are you so nice to people?” I was surprised by the question and didn’t really know how to answer it, but I managed to say, “Well, I think I understand people.” He responded with a laugh and said, “I guess that’s the difference between you and me. I don’t understand people at all.” It was such a casual, in-passing kind of conversation that I would have forgotten it, except that that was the last night I ever saw him, and it was one of the last things he ever said to me. A little more than a month later, he committed suicide.

I realize this is a macabre, intimate story to share. I don’t mean to be confessional, and I certainly don’t mean to be macabre. But I think that memory is important here because it highlights a significant but not often enough considered aspect of the theme of this issue: the fundamental value of understanding for one’s own salvation.

When we speak of compassion and understanding, we often think of it as a kind of votive offering, a sacrifice, something we give of ourselves to others. And there’s truth in that. True understanding is deconstructive. It requires us to break down those presumptions and hard beliefs that act as walls to divide us from other people– especially those people whom we consider our enemies — and to reconsider our world and the events that happen within it from a perspective beyond ourselves. Doing so requires humility in accepting that our perceptions of the world and our understanding even of ourselves is subjective; it also requires a nimble imagination to go beyond our particular experiences and modes of thinking. Understanding is challenging and too often taken for granted.

Even so, understanding doesn’t have to be perfect to have its effect. Often, simply acknowledging that another person has a completely different frame of reference that we may never fully comprehend is enough to humble us, to make us reconsider (or consider for the first time) our sense of our own righteousness. What I meant when I told my friend that I think I understand people was that I understand, however imperfectly, that every person I meet has known pain and that pain is very often the cause of the hurtful, sometimes truly terrible things people do. It doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t often feel frustrated — even enraged — by others’ actions and words, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I haven’t sometimes hurt other people. But I do carry with me that glimpse of wisdom in knowing that there is a common thread that binds us all together and that this thread is, macabre as it sounds, pain. This unifying thread reminds me to be kind as often as I can, in whatever small or great ways I find. It also reminds me to forgive and move past the pain I experience. Understanding our common humanity — our sensitivity and frailty — makes us able to use that pain to heal rather than as a weapon.

Carl Jung’s first mandala

As I’ve said, healing ourselves through understanding is inherently a part of that forward movement. This is something that my friend unfortunately never realized. To him, his pain was unique and unbearable. He didn’t understand that others had felt similar pain before, that it was something we keep mostly hidden, as he had done. When we can’t perceive the suffering of others, we are left only with ourselves and our own heavy pain. We are engulfed by it, and it makes us feel supremely, desperately lonely.

Because many of us don’t often share our pains with each other face-to-face — perhaps we’re ashamed to; maybe others discourage it, finding it uncomfortable or even frightening; or perhaps the opportunity never really comes up — it is often through art that we learn to understand and find understanding in others. James Baldwin wrote in The Price of the Ticket: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” Reading opens us up to a larger community — however remote in space and time — that is always there, and through it we realize that we are never truly alone. Reading makes it possible for us to experience the pain of others, helps us begin to understand experiences that may be far removed from our own and otherwise inaccessible to us, and to find the common threads between our own and others’ stories. This connection through words is what Baldwin relished. …

It is a gift to ourselves to understand — to see the humanity in others, to see ourselves in them and, reflexively, them in ourselves. This is how enemies cease to be enemies, how strangers grow close and become part of a growing sense of a human family. It allows us not only to become kinder to others but also to ourselves. Understanding makes it possible for us to persist in spite of our struggles, in spite of our pain, because we know that others have been before where we are now.

I hope that the stories and poetry in this issue help us all to do just that: to be challenged, to be seized and opened wide, to take in alien thoughts, emotions, and experiences, to be made freshly vulnerable to pain, and therefore to be transformed, made greater and more understanding, and to be healed. Because we can be healed by understanding, in recognizing and accepting the pain that lies in others and in learning to identify and love the humanity revealed by that pain. Through that, we can be re-made universal and whole.

To purchase the issue, click here.

To the Mystery in a Cloud

Nimbus II. 2012. Digital C-type Print 75 x 112 cm. Hotel MariaKapel, Hoorn, Netherlands. Berndnaut Smilde/Photo by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.

I’m a terrible blogger in some ways. I’m whimsical, coy, and frequently silent. I blame this on being an INF(T)P (I also love blaming perceived flaws on personality types and star signs — I’m a Pisces — because it helps me bear them philosophically). Anyway, seeing as I haven’t posted in a while, I’ve been racking my brain for the past few weeks for something to post about. I’m extremely picky about what I feel is “worthy” of posting. It can’t just be something cool I found, where I post a brief introduction and a link and am done with it; it has to be something I can explore and build on to say something about myself or my perception of the world (very INTP). I don’t know why I’ve set this requirement for my blog, but there it is.

I was cruising Pinterest and Google images today for inspiration for a new tattoo idea I have: just a cloud, but not a cutesy one, or a cartoonish one, or an 8-bit one, or a Chinese-style one, something kind of ethereal that will still somehow work with my more classic-style blue jay tattoo. The idea was inspired by the following lines in Wendell Berry’s poem “The Morning News”:

What must I do
to go free?  I think I must put on
a deathlier knowledge, and prepare to die
rather than enter into the design of man’s hate.
I will purge my mind of the airy claims
of church and state.  I will serve the earth
and not pretend my life could better serve.
Another morning comes with its strange cure.
The earth is news.  Though the river floods
And the spring is cold, my heart goes on,
faithful to the mystery in a cloud,
and the summer’s garden continues its descent
through me, toward the ground.

I love that. If I had to name a personal living hero (and I’m not really into that; hero worship is a little dangerous), I’d probably say Wendell Berry. The line I bolded has particularly stuck with me; I think of it every time I watch the clouds drift across the blue expanse above me like a herd of diaphanous elephants. If I identify with any natural presence, it’s clouds. They have tender, fleeting existences; they take various shapes throughout their “lives” as they are created and transformed by the elements and forces around them; at different points, they are benign or malignant, soothing or ominous; and when they’re gone, it’s only back into the earth, where they nourish life and eventually are reborn in other forms. In some ways, at least from my perspective, their mystery is our human mystery. And when I get my tattoo, and people ask me what it means, I can say with droll, stark ambiguity, “I’m faithful to the mystery in a cloud.”

During this morning search for tattoo inspiration, I came across (not for the first time) the photographs of Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde, whose surreal images of clouds within empty interior spaces have garnered a lot of attention this year. These images are not of clouds photoshopped into spaces; Smilde creates the clouds himself by misting the air and then turning on a fog machine, and an assistant takes the photo at the right time.

Nimbus D’Aspremont. 2012. Digital C-type Print 75 x 110/125 x 184 cm. Kasteel D’Aspremont-Lynden, Rekem, Belgium. Berndnaut Smilde/Photo by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.

The creation of the cloud, as performance or installation art, is a statement on impermanence and the awe one feels when watching something mysterious and unique (as no two clouds are exactly alike) unfold. The photograph, however, is representative of mankind’s special ability and deep desire to make the evanescent (more) eternal.

An article on Slate explains: “Smilde is interested in fleeting moments, the ‘in-between situations’ that are open to interpretation.” Smilde himself wrote that “the cloud brings duality because you can’t really grasp how to interpret the situation you are viewing. This is not so much about the shape of the cloud but rather by placing it out of its natural context; in this case the unnatural situation can be threatening.”

I don’t find the surreal threatening, however. I’m always drawn to the liminal and the strange. Like Emily Dickinson, I know it’s my kind of art when “it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me.” Viewing his photographs is a spiritual confirmation. It nods to a wordless truth — something about the beauty of transience, how things have power and beauty simply because they are impermanent — that is wonderful in every sense of the word.

It’s like seeing a spirit in daylight.

Nimbus Minerva. 2012. Digital C-type Print 75 x 113/125 x 188 cm. Academy Minerva, Groningen, Netherlands. Berndnaut Smilde/Photo by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.

Nimbus Platform57. 2012. Digital C-type Print 125 x 198 cm. The Hague, Netherlands. Berndnaut Smilde/Photo by Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk.

Nimbus Cukurcuma Hamam I. 2012. C-type Print on Dibond, 125 x 184 cm. Berndnaut Smilde/Photo by Onur Dag.

The Circularity of Infinity: In Memory of Borges on His Birthday

I discovered Borges in undergrad around the same time that I discovered the Chuang Tzu and the two are linked in my mind. It’s not just that I came upon them at roughly the same time; they communicate similar concepts in similar ways, and I consider Borges to be perhaps the chief of Taoistic Western writers. Both Borges’ work and the Chuang Tzu address chance and fate (as in Borges’ “The Lottery of Babylon” and “The Garden of Forking Paths”), language as mutable and infinitely subjective (as in “The Library of Babel” and “An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain”), and the possibility of perceiving the whole of existence in a single, enlightened moment (“The Aleph”). Borges’ work also shares with the Chuang Tzu a love of language-play and a wry sense of humor; both are complex and subtle and require more than just a passing glance. All things I love in literature. I was pleasantly surprised today to see that Google produced a doodle in commemoration of his 112th birthday and decided, in that same spirit, to present some Borges quotes I love. Enjoy!

“Rumor had it that The Secret Mirror was a Freudian comedy; this propitious (and fallacious) interpretation determined its success. Unfortunately, Quain had already reached the age of forty; he was totally used to failure and he did not easily resign himself to a change of regime. He resolved to avenge himself. Toward the end of 1939 he issued Statements: perhaps the most original of his works, doubtless the least praised and most secret. Quain was in the habit of arguing that readers were an already extinct species. ‘Every European,’ he reasoned, ‘is a writer, potentially or in fact.’ He also affirmed that of the various pleasures offered by literature, the greatest is invention. Since not everyone is capable of this pleasure, many must content themselves with shams. For these ‘imperfect writers,’ whose name is legion, Quain wrote the eight stories in Statements. Each of them prefigures or promises a good plot, deliberately frustrated by the author. One of them — not the best — insinuates two arguments. The reader, led astray by vanity, thinks he has invented them.” (from “An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain”)

“Heraclitus of Pontica admiringly relates that Pythagoras recalled having been Pyrrho, and before that Euphorbus, and before that some other mortal. In order to recall analogous vicissitudes I do not need to have recourse to death, nor even to imposture.” (from “The Babylon Lottery”)

“The faraway king of the birds, the Simurg, drops an exquisite feather in the middle of China; weary of their ancient anarchy, the birds determine to find it. They know that their king’s name means ‘Thirty Birds’; they know that his royal palace stands on the Kaf, the circular mountain which surrounds the earth. They undertake the almost infinite adventure. They fly over seven valleys, or seven seas; the next-to-the-last one is called Vertigo; the last, Annihilation. Many of the pilgrims desert; others perish. Thirty of them, purified by their labors, set foot upon the Mountain of the Simurg. At last they contemplate it; they perceive that they are the Simurg, and that the Simurg is each one of them and all of them.” (from “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim,” in a footnote)

“Differing from Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not think of time as absolute and uniform. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times. This web of time — the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries — embraces every possibility. We do not exist in most of them. In some you exist and not I, while in others I do, and you do not, and in yet others both of us exist. In this one, in which chance has favored me, you have come to my gate. In another, you, crossing the garden, have found me dead. In yet another, I say these very same words, but am an error, a phantom.” (from “The Garden of Forking Paths”)

“Once dead, there will not lack pious hands to hurl me over the banister; my sepulchre shall be the unfathomable air; my body will sink lengthily and will corrupt and dissolve in the wind engendered by the fall, which is infinite.” (from “The Library of Babel”)

“An n number of possible languages makes use of the same vocabulary; in some of them, the symbol library admits of the correct definition ubiquitous and everlasting system of hexagonal galleries, but library is bread or pyramid or anything else, and the seven words which define it possess another value. You who read me, are you sure you understand my language?” (from “The Library of Babel”)

“I have known what the Greeks did not: uncertainty.” (from “The Babylon Lottery”)

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What’s your favorite Borges quote?

Some Words on the Value of Compassion

Kwan Yin, Chan Buddhist Goddess of Compassion

“…I have three treasures that I cherish and hold fast.
The first is compassion,
the second is simplicity,
the third is daring not to be first
among all things under heaven.

Because of compassion I am able to be courageous.
Because of simplicity I am able to be generous.
Because of daring not to be first
I am able to lead…”

-From the Tao Te Ching, Ch. 67

Compassion seems like such a little thing, so minor that we hardly think about it, even when we’re being compassionate. But it is important, perhaps the most important quality we can have as human beings, subtle and common as it seems. Maybe I have a Pollyanna complex, but I think that if you live compassionately — consistently and indiscriminately — you can change the world around you. Which is why I’m glad that Karen Armstrong and the Fetzer Institute have organized the rapidly growing movement Charter for Compassion, which promotes the spread of compassion, regardless of one’s cultural and religious values or social and economic status. The Charter’s call to action states:

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings — even those regarded as enemies.

People need compassion; we crave it. I’m convinced that the world’s bitterness, pessimism, and violence come not only from selfishness, but from feeling that everyone else is selfish as well, that they’re alone or nearly alone in a threatening world. How can you change their minds? By showing them consistently that that’s not the way the world has to be. It’s true that some people won’t latch on; they won’t change and they might even try to take advantage of people who are kind to them. Still, there are others who are open to being shown that, as the Charter states, “Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity.” The presence of those in our world who are cynical and immovable, for whatever reason (and there are always reasons), doesn’t justify giving up on the whole of humanity. Live and let live, yes, but do so compassionately.

“To cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of…even those regarded as enemies” is the kernel of the movement, I think. As Christ said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? … And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?” (Luke 6:32-33). The mark of a truly compassionate person is one who loves those who seem difficult to love and does good to those who may not reciprocate. It’s hard to do that, I know; I struggle with it every day. But I’m making a concentrated, daily effort to recognize those “enemies” of mine and try to understand them, to perceive the vulnerabilities that have caused them to become difficult for me to love, and if that’s not possible for whatever reason, to at least acknowledge that they have those vulnerabilities.

Who are your enemies? For a moment, forget what they stand for or what they’ve done to you, and try to discover their humanity — their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, their need for love and understanding. Learning to forgive and love one’s enemies not only allows you to interact with them in a positive way; it improves your health and your relationships with those you love because, in refusing to expend so much energy on animosity, you become a happier, more serene person.

I highly recommend checking out The Charter for Compassion (linked above) and the community that’s grown from it. I’m not really the heartwarming, touchy-feely type, but I do think this is important. It’s the only way for us to grow as human beings.

On Action vs. Non-action vs. Wei-wu-wei

This is Part II of my conversation with a friend about Taoism and Christ. He suggested that one has reached true emptiness when one gives oneself so fully to a greater cause that the self is forgotten.

You touched on a debate I’ve been having with myself for a long time about action and non-action in Taoism — fighting for a cause or doing nothing and letting nature (human or otherwise) take its course. There are so many different ways to act or not act for a cause that I think it really depends on the cause and the action. In the extreme of “acting for a cause greater than oneself” are suicide bombers and political extremists; I think we both agree that that’s not the way to act for a cause and that that kind of rash selflessness doesn’t enact positive change, if any real change occurs at all. People die and the living remain, or are perhaps further, polarized. Then again, the extreme of “not acting for any cause, regardless of the situation” can result in something like […] a totalitarian, suffocating society, where people don’t contend for so long that it becomes nearly impossible to do anything at all, even when life really sucks for everyone. It’s hard to say which extreme is better because both end badly. Filling oneself with a cause — to the point that one’s life, along with that of others’, becomes meaningless — isn’t necessarily a complete Good, but neither is emptying oneself of a sense of what’s best (and therefore the desire to act) to the point that one becomes a virtual or actual prisoner. I should mention that, because of Taoism’s moral ambiguity [or apathy], there’s not much that Taoists would find necessary to act for or against. Even so, when a Taoist sage (that is, an ideal Taoist) really feels that changes need to be made, s/he is pretty cautious about how s/he goes about making those changes. So much of Taoism is about “action through non-action” (wei-wu-wei), which is as much about efficiency as it is proceeding in such a way that as little damage is wreaked as possible, of which I think Christ is a great example. It seems to me that he was all about action through non-action: he was there to teach those who wanted to be taught, but didn’t force anything on anyone. He was a receiver [and giver], rather than an aggressor. Even when the priests came for him near the end of his life, he didn’t fight; instead, he healed the one whose ear was cut off. […]

Still, if one were to [sacrifice one’s life], one has to first ask the question: Is it better for me to sacrifice myself to make a statement, or would I better serve my cause by living? And, of course, you have to think long and hard about whether your cause is really the right one. For Christ, from the Christian perspective, that question is easy to answer — as the Son of God, yes, his cause was the Ultimate Good, and his human life was much less important than the salvation of humankind […] But for regular people, I think it’s good to entertain the idea that what one perceives as a Total Good usually contains some potential for Evil/Bad and that there is often some potential for Good in a Bad/Evil idea or situation (enter the Taijitu, or Yin/Yang symbol), and that it’s almost impossible for people to tell which is best because we’re so near-sighted — one can’t really see the ultimate end of any action. Which is why it’s best to wait and see, or to tread lightly in action. Or, to put it in a Christian perspective, it’s not possible for a regular person to completely understand or foresee God’s plan, so forcing an action in either direction could be a mistake because what a person sees as an Evil might be, from God’s perspective, an avenue to a true Good. So I think that getting rid of the ego is ideal, but I think that also involves getting rid of one’s presumptions about what’s right/useful and wrong/useless in a given situation. And that, depending on one’s perspective, can either make life really difficult (if one is always trying to sort out Good from Bad, considering all the infinite variables and roads) or really simple (if one decides to let go of trying to be overly moral [or valiant] and just live life, taking each moment as it comes). I tend to do the former, spending unnecessary amounts of time trying to figure out where I stand on complex issues, but I’m trying to teach myself to do the latter and am slowly coming along. I do think it’s easier and healthier to just let go, to a certain degree, to be more like a tree than a mule.

The ultimate goal of Taoism is to be natural — that is, not to get caught up in petty human struggle and instead just be compassionate and simple and humble (the three Taoist treasures, which can be found in the Tao Te Ching in Ch. 67). Again, I think Christ is a great example of a Taoist sage, especially when considering lines from Ch. 67: “From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity; / From humility comes leadership.” He seems (to me, at least) much less preoccupied with law and sin (though he was concerned with those things, of course) than teaching and exhibiting compassion, humility and simplicity.

I’m open to further discussion, so feel free to post comments below.