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.