Friday, October 7, 2011

Mouse on Pooh Corner

  My son Isaac and I were discussing the Tao Te Ching yesterday.  I had gifted all my Magnificent Offspring with copies of this illustrious book early this year, as well as the Tao of Pooh.  He said he'd very much enjoyed the poetry and certain aspects of the philosophy ascribed, but it wasn't for him. 

"The Tao seems to be against science," he said.  And certainly he would never consent to anything that leaves knowledge and truth behind.

I nodded.  That was fair enough.  "Leave off your fine learning!" cries Lao Tzu from his pages, and Huff seems to decry most things technological.  But Isaac is no Bear of Little Brain.  He is the Laughing Mouse, and with his whiskers he will know the world.  And the Peacable Scholar of my house will no sooner leave off books than he will take up swords against bunnies.  It is his nature to seek and learn, and knowledge feeds his soul.

So we discussed the matter.  After all, the author of 'Pooh probably has air conditioning, so he cannot hate all science, can he?  And there is a huge difference between being an Owl or a Rabbit from Pooh Corner and simply studying what you enjoy because you enjoy it.

Lao Tzu himself advised that "the Tao you know is not the Tao," for reading and folowing rules is not the way to find it   And with this in mind, I shared with my son this tale, which began shortly before he was born.

Years ago, when we were moving into our first house, the landlord asked me to do something about the lawn.  It seemed the last tenants had managed to kill off most of the grass.  Much of the lawn was rocky and dead, the soil was pale and brittle, the grass was sparse and thin.  Nothing moved.  The theory was that they’d been dumping chemicals from their meth lab onto the ground. I wasn’t there, I don’t know.  But our new landlord said if we could bring it back a bit, he might take a little off the rent.  Maybe. No promises.

So I assured him I would improve the quality of the lawn.  He advised lots of seed, lots of artificial fertilizer, and frequent chemical sprays.  He figured it would take years, and a lot of money.  Maybe a hired professional.

So I did the logical thing.    I left it alone.

Spring came, and the grass – what little there was of it – grew.  I let it “go to seed.”  Eventually the landlords got churlish about it, and I or one of my family would cut what little there was.  Then it went to seed again.  And reluctantly there was cutting.  And again.  And again.  And each time, the seeds we’d allowed to grow and germinate fell to the ground and scattered across as they would.

Grass does that. 

Fall wandered by as it will, and the leaves fell and covered the lawn completely.  There was no raking.  There was a lot of bad noise from the landlord and his wife, but no raking.  And when winter came it was all covered by snow, at which point who cared?

And so it went.  Fallen leaves help keep the seeds from last year safe, of course, and old leaves become fertile soil.  When spring came, there was more grass to let grow than before. 

By the time we moved out a few years later, the land was healthy and fertile again.  In fact, our lawn had the greenest and most beautifully dense grass in the entire neighborhood.  Not only was the lawn lush and full, but there were squirrels and the like playing about as well.  Birds were singing playfully.  Even the trees looked better, though that might have been the scenery.

We were of course evicted.

But my point was that by following the basic principles of Inner Nature, the lawn was brought to the pinnacle of health.  But without knowledge of how the natures of the grass and the trees would work together to heal the land, it would have been impossible.  So it is with any living thing.  Thus, knowledge is not the bane of the Tao.

By this time I had finished my tale, and we had reached the library.  He hopped out and vanished within, and so he attended his own Inner Nature.  And I went on to attend my own.


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