Feeling Yucky

The highest virtue is like water.
Since water helps the myriad creatures,
And settles, without contention,
Where no one wishes to live,
It is near to the Way.
In a house position matters.
In mental quality depth matters.
In friends kindness matters.
In speaking honesty matters.
In government order matters.
In transactions ability matters.
In actions promptness matters.
By not contending it never errs.

Tao Te-Ching, Lao Tzu VIII

When I walked away from teaching I resolved not to contend with anyone over anything. It wasn’t worth it. Anything anyone was going to learn they would learn without me. The resolution not to contend was a wise one. Contention makes me feel dirty, polluted, as if I’ve sacrificed something precious. It makes me think of a theme in the novels of Yukio Mishima in which a protagonist “falls from grace,” and is no longer able to experience bliss.

When I read Mishima’s novels in my late 20’s that idea resonated with me. Mishima seemed to say that by holding fast to an imperceptible thread we could walk through the labyrinth safely. Dropping the thread? Mishima’s characters lost everything.

Contending with that child yesterday left me feeling icky. I guess a few walks with Bear and maybe a little skiing will clear all that away.

12 thoughts on “Feeling Yucky

  1. I feel like I’m reading these backward. I’m going to have to read yesterday’s post. I hate conflict and have been known to mutter “Nolo contendere”…

  2. Contention generally doesn’t solve differences — and I always feel as if I came out the “loser!” Your decision to avoid contention was a wise one!

  3. When we avoid contentiousness, we are setting an example to others that it is possible to coexist and not fight with each other. Of coarse, there’s always going to be those that will find fault with our diplomacy and choice to NOT ‘get involved’ – which just goes to show that even the most humble, equanimous and ‘nice’ human being is going to be a target for some opinionated ignoramus.

    • I’ve stepped away from a few of those people in recent years. There’s great advice in the I-Ching I wish I’d remembered. I relied on it often while I was teaching. 😀

      “In the time of youth, folly is not an evil. One may succeed in spite of it, provided one finds an experienced teacher and has the right attitude toward him. This means, first of all, that the youth himself must be conscious of his lack of experience and must seek out the teacher. Without this modesty and this interest there is no guarantee that he has the necessary receptivity, which should express itself in respectful acceptance of the teacher. This is the reason why the teacher must wait to be sought out instead of offering himself. Only thus can the instruction take place at the right time and in the right way. A teacher’s answer to the question of a pupil ought to be clear and definite like that expected from an oracle; thereupon it ought to be accepted as a key for resolution of doubts and a basis for decision. If mistrustful or unintelligent questioning is kept up, it serves only to annoy the teacher. He does well to ignore it in silence, just as the oracle gives one answer only and refuses to be tempted by questions implying doubt. Given addition a perseverance that never slackens until the points are mastered one by one, real success is sure to follow. Thus the hexagram counsels the teacher as well as the pupil.”

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