More Questions Than Answers (A Good Place To Be)

Image by Erika Mugglin, Heath, OH

November was a great month for reading.  I knew from past experience that I needed to bring several books with me to China to fill up the many hours of downtime during our travels.  Just as I’d done on all previous trips, I visited the local library the day before departure to pick up some books for the trip.

 This time however, I had some initial trouble with the books on my list.  The first five or six selections either weren’t carried in the library’s collection or were already signed out.  Normally, I would’ve been upset that my first choices weren’t available; this time, I simply continued the search with books further down my list.  I had a sense that the books I was meant to read would be revealed.
I wasn’t disappointed.
I signed out four books, none of them light reading:
  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (The Cloud Hands Edition)
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • The Vision of Emersonby Richard Geldard (a collection of some of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s most famous essays)
  • Good Poems selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor

Philosophy, with a side order of religion.  More than a few times, the lyrics from “What I Am” by Edie Bricknell & The New Bohemians crept into my mind:

Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box
Religion is the smile on a dog…
Shove me in the shallow water before I get too deep…

What was most amazing was how well these works all complimented each other, and how they spoke to what was happening in my life.  They immediately shook things up, set me back on my heels, and pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Excess food!
Excess baggage!
Ah no.
Thus the Sage rejects them.
         — Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Read that as, Too much food.” 

Children, who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure.
          — Henry David Thoreau, Walden
So many quotes hit my prayer journal, too many for a blog post.
The one thing we seek with insatiable desire is to forget ourselves, to be surprised out of our propriety, to lose our sempiternal memory, and to do something without knowing who or why; in short, to draw a new circle.  Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.  The way of life is wonderful: it is abandonment.  The great moments of history are the facilities of performance through the strength of ideas, as the works of genius and religion.  “A man,” said Oliver Cromwell, “never rises so high as when he knows not whither he is going.”
         — Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”
In summary, now that I’m feeling better, I’m happy to report I’m embracing the questions and consciously “venturing into uncharted territory”.  David Wagoner captures this feeling powerfully in his poem “Lost”:
Stand still.  The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost.  Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may not come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows
Where you are.  You must let it find you.

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