October 20, 2006
I've been thinking about this...
Man's true self is eternal,
yet he thinks, "I am this body, I will soon die"
This false sense of self
is the cause of all his sorrow
When a person does not identify himself with the body
tell me, what troubles could touch him?
Tao Te Ching Verse 13
I'm sitting inside, watching the season change. It's almost the peak for
the leaves. There is a hickory tree right outside this window. It's
bright yellow, waving wildly in the wind. The weather keeps changing. A
few minutes ago I heard pounding rain. I looked out the front window to
see a heavy downpour. I looked out the back window, and it was still as
dry as ever. Just minutes later it was bright and sunny.
It feels like this season has really reached a turning point. I've been
hearing the geese, flying through the dark sky in the middle of the night,
honking. It started out being pairs, or occasionally a single goose,
lonely and searching... now the flocks have gotten bigger. 30, maybe 40
geese in a flock. They are headed south now, striking out for warmer
I've seen swallows flying south too. They don't flock, they fly alone, so
high that I can barely see their split tales. I never knew they migrated,
but watching the sky I've seen them go by one by one in a steady stream,
all headed for the lower latitudes. Swallows are my favorite birds. To
me they have always symbolized freedom. Their daring low passes and
swoops, just barely skimming above the grass. Their cheery songs, their
incredible speed and agility. They are not a symbol of power like the
eagle, or wisdom like an owel. They are not strikingly beautiful like an
oriole, or dignified like a heron. People don't take much notice of them at
all, but they are totally free. Free from expectation, free to migrate,
I have always associated freedom with movement. The unstoppable flow of a
river, the uncontrollable gallop of a horse. I think of freedom as wind
on my face, and miles and miles of trail ahead of me. I think of
mountains, high planes, cliffs, rapids, journeys, the open road, open
Today the wind is tossing the tree branches like they are nothing. Leaves
are blowing wildly by the windows, geese are headed south. It seems like
everything is moving. Everything but me.
In one hard tackle my whole idea of freedom was demolished. I can't walk,
I can't drive, bike, paddle, or ride. There is no wind on my face. The
distance from my bed to the kitchen seems longer than any trail I've ever
hiked. The road is anything but open.
But strangely I don't feel any different. Physically, I'm in pain, but
emotionally and spiritually I am if anything, better than before. My
concept of freedom was destroyed, but I still feel free. I find myself
asking, What is freedom?
Today, lying in bed I was alternating between staring out the window and reading the Tao Te Ching for a class in school. Verse 13 suddenly stood out to me. Here it is again, in case you skipped it up higher.
Man's true self is eternal, yet he thinks, "I am this body, I will soon die" This false sense of self is the cause of all his sorrow When a person does not identify himself with the body tell me, what troubles could touch him?
My physical self has been, for a time, broken. but rather than breaking
my spirit, it set me free. Truly free.
So now, I'm trying to discover what it means to be free. Is it to think
for yourself? Is it to pray to whom you choose? Is it political?
Economic? Is it the ability to maintain emotional and spiritual well
being regardless of physical conditions? Is it as Webster thought: "the
absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action"?
I just don't know.
It reminds me of something in the Bible. "It is for freedom that Christ
set you free." Whatever it is, freedom is intrinsically valuable. It was
worth the life of Jesus. I can not be imprisoned by a wheel chair. I
will not be enslaved by this body. I am a free man, and nothing in this
world can change that.
By the way, I sprained both knees. So I'm in a wheelchair for a little while, but it's not a big deal. I'll bounce back before you know it. I am amazed by people who spend their whole lives not walking.
Posted by ian on October 20, 2006 01:37 PM
"When a person does not identify himself with the body tell me, what troubles could touch him?"
More troubles then the person who does identify himself with his body, honestly.
But up until there I pretty much agree. Except that is the reasoning that gone overboard will lead people to trash the environment and generally avoid caring for physical needs in this world. But yeah, as long as you understand that the physical world is still important, then it's cool.
Posted by: jason on October 20, 2006 02:53 PM
sorry to hear about your knees, Ian; but, glad to hear that you are still free and will bounce back soon...:-)
Posted by: jessica on October 22, 2006 12:07 AM