Things Are Well When They Move Together Not In Isolation.
Principle 4. Proportion. Second Week.
Last time: Priorities, and a Tale of Four Magicians
This time: Proportion, Harmony, Equilibrium
Last week we looked at the overall structure of this month’s principle and tried to understand it in general terms. We considered its implications, whether it’s useful, and in what ways.
This week we will look at how I applied it or could have applied it in the past.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
Reflecting on the principle I realize that for me the “register” (the direct experience as experienced) of things moving together, or being proportionate to each other, is a register of harmony and equilibrium. In trying to deepen my understanding of this principle and its applications, I once again begin by asking myself some simple questions.
Simple things like, what kind of relations or actions give me a sense of things being correctly proportioned, of being in harmony? When it comes to myself and others, do I isolate myself or move with them? What does “move with them mean”? Does it mean to “go along to get along”? If not how do I find a harmonious way of being in a very non-harmonious world?
In the Analects (e.g. 13:23) Confucius had some thoughts on all this:
The Master said, a person with true power acts in harmony with others but does not seek to be like them; the small man seeks to be like others and does not act in harmony.
His younger contemporary Laozi had this to say about harmony and various aspects of our behaviour.
Standing on tiptoe balance is soon lost.
Run and you’ll quickly be exhausted.
Seeking the spotlight is not enlightenment.
The self-righteous are far from righteousness.
The boastful gain no credit.
Braggarts reveal their weakness.
These are unsatisfying like crumbs from a meal,
or unnecessary baggage.
Those who follow the way leave all that aside.
(My interpretation of chapter 24 of the Tao Te Ching)
Proceeding in that way I discovered that I had lots of questions but few answers as pithy or insightful as those. Finally, I got practical and asked myself if to try and recall three occasions where I successfully applied this principle. What difference did it make
Silo explained that idea of “moving together” did not imply that all my activities should get the same time, or energy. Rather that it was a matter of being clear about my priorities. Things are moving together only when each activity, each ambit (family, friends, work, etc), and each project gets the attention it needs according to how I have prioritized them.
That means I need to get my priorities right. That means I need to make my aims, goals and purpose clearer.
Sometimes meditation require you sit down and close your eyes but that’s less than half the story.
The principles of valid action should not be treated as an external moral code, or rule book. Nor are they are not meant as slogans or prefabricated answers. Their potential is realized through sustained effort and contemplation. In that way they are revealed as a framework for a dynamic meditation, a discipline that you can practice in every moment of your life with your eyes wide open.
Next week we’ll look at our present situations and explore how applying, or ignoring this Principle of Proportion might impact our lives and those around us.
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