Principle 5, First Week
This week some wide-ranging thoughts as we begin our considerations of a new principle in our monthly rotation through the 12 Principles of Valid Action. These appear in Chapter 13 of the book, The Inner Look. This one is the fifth one and is sometimes called “The Principle of Acceptance ” it says: “If day and night summer and winter are well with you, you have surpassed the contradiction”
General Thoughts about our meditations on the Principles of Valid Action
Over the next weeks we’ll consider this principle and its implications, whether it’s useful, and in what ways. We will look at how I applied it or could have applied it in the past, how it might apply in my current situation, how I imagine it might in the future. All of this is not just to understand this principle of valid action more deeply but also to begin to reflect more rigorously about our behaviour. Can I see how the Principles might be woven into a discipline that I can practice at every moment of my life, a kind of dynamic meditation, almost like learning a mental martial art – where the ability to get out of your opponents way (rather than how to punch them in the nose) is highly valued. As always we should remember the Principles are not meant as isolated bits of wisdom, any more than they’re meant as morals. They are part of a dynamic meditation, a discipline that you can practice in every moment of your life. They are principles, general ideas that you can weave together into a coherent style of life.
Personal Reflections on the Principle of Acceptance.
As always I offer these thoughts in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
As soon as I begin thinking about this stuff I think something like: how can I accept both summer and winter as things that are both well? How can I possibly see day and night as the same. At first it doesn’t strike me as reasonable, possible or even desirable. What could it mean to see these opposites as the same — not in the sense of identical but somehow as complementary rather than contradictory.
Here’s an interpretation of our old friend Lao Tzu’s thoughts about this subject. (I realize that I quote him a lot. Not as much as I quote Silo but a lot nonetheless.)
It’s from chapter 13 of the Tao the Ching of Lao Tzu (or Laozi, or Lotzi , or Lao Tzi, as you prefer)
Accept disgrace willingly.
Accept misfortune as the human condition.
What do you mean by “Accept disgrace willingly”?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with loss and gain.
This is called “accepting disgrace willingly.”
What do you mean by “Accept misfortune as the human condition”?
Misfortune comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?
Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.
Taoism, the school that considers Lao Tzu to be its founder uses the famous Yin Yang as its symbol. This design (also called the symbol of the Tai Chi or Taiji, which means something like symbol of the “great ultimate”). To me it seems to show the opposites as included as part of a whole, but also somehow including each other, all held together in some kind of dynamic tension.
Living around the same time as Lao Tzu, but half a world away, (Greece as opposed to China) was Heraclitus of Ephesia (he’s also called Heraclitus the Dark, Heraclitus the Obscure, and also the Weeping Philosopher — but don’t let any of that scare you off).
He didn’t say much but from the fragments of his thoughts that have come down to us we can see that he also thought about this subject a lot. Even our form of expressing the principle seems to signal a nod in his direction. Here’s some of what he said:
God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, when it is mingled with spices, is named according to the savour of each.
Cold things become warm, and what is warm cools; what is wet dries, and the parched is moistened
But really the statement of his that I was considering most these last few day’s is this one.
They do not understand how that which differs with itself in is agreement: harmony consists of opposing tension, like that of the bow and the lyre.
These notes have been posted on the Facebook page and to the mailing list of Community of Silo’s Message, Toronto Annex.
Remember this document has more examples of, and information about, the Principles of Valid Action in general, and this one in particular.
We’d all love to hear your comments, thoughts about, considerations of, or artwork inspired by, any of this.