William Edelen: All Is Natural In The Dance Of Existence…

The Contrary Minister

“Except for the still point there would be no dance… and there is only the dance…” wrote T. S. Eliot. To live fully in joy and daily celebration, we must abandon ourselves to the dance, the dance of existence. Life is a dance and the dance goes on, with or without us.

Today, physicists are telling us that their understanding of “reality,” the nature and activity of the universe, is bringing us closer and closer to the perspective of the ancient Eastern religions, especially Hinduism and classical Taoism.

We are a part of the cosmic dance, and all is one. Physicists assure us now that rocks and flowers dance with the dance of life. Trees dance to the wind. Salmon and trout and porpoise dance and leap with a ballet of grace and rhythm. It is asked of us even as the carpenter asked in Alice, “Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?” Planets dance to beautifully intricate laws, even as do atoms. There is no line between the sacred and profane, the supernatural and natural, the divine and the human… all is natural, sacred and divine.

A recently translated Dead Sea Scroll records a disciple asking Jesus, “Master, how can we get into the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus answers, “follow the birds, the beasts, the fish, and they will lead you in.” Classical Taoism has been saying that for 3,000 and more years. Scholars date the origin of Taoism at least 600 years before Jesus, with the roots of this philosophy and world view going back much further.

The “Old Master” of Taoism, Lao Tzu, born about 600 B.C., was immaculately conceived by a shooting star, according to legend. Only one small volume of writings was produced by him, the Tao Te Ching, or The Way and its Power. He did not preach or organize a church or any doctrine or theology. He spoke only of our at-oneness with the universe and the harmony that exists between all things. The “Tao” does not refer to a supernatural “God”… “out there” somewhere.

Do you want to see the living Tao? Look into a wood-burning fire and see the sun’s energy dancing… as captured by photosynthesis. Watch a bird in flight… soaring on the current and never stopping to analyze or explain the wind. Listen to the sound of rain, which needs no translation. Watch a salmon leap up the next set of rapids. Watch a bee gathering honey. Watch a cucumber cumbering.

The Tao is the way of ultimate reality. It says, “Get yourself in tune and harmony with the natural rhythms of nature and the universe and then let yourself flow without effort, strain, tension and anxiety.” It is a perspective and view of life that can be used daily in the busiest office in downtown Boise, or New York City. It changes the way you approach problems. In our busy, rushed, calendar-filled world of appointments and conferences and meetings, it can save us from migraine headaches, high blood pressure and stress problems. Whether you are a Christian, Jew, or agnostic, the beautiful themes of Taoism can still become a part of your days and activities. It can enrich your view of the world and enlarge your understanding of reality.

The flow of life is like the flow of water. If you are thrashing and flailing around, you tire and exhaust yourself and drown. If you relax and float and flow with the tide, it carries you gently. So with life. It is as Jesus said: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin. Consider the birds of the air, they neither sow nor reap. Why be anxious?”

A lovely story the Taoists tell to illustrate this attitude is of the Taoist walking along the road with a honey bucket being carried on a pole over his shoulder. The bucket slips, crashes to the ground and breaks. The Taoist continues to walk ahead, not looking back. A man seeing this event rushes up to the Taoist and yells, “Hey, your honey bucket fell, and is broken all over the ground back there.” The Taoist, continuing to walk and looking straight ahead says quietly, “I know. I heard it fall,” and continues without looking back. It was broken. What could he do? He could have gotten in a stew, raised his blood pressure, worried about it. But no. He quietly continued his walk.

What a difference in the living of our days, if we would remember this story at those times when the dance and the flow seem interrupted by events.

Taoists reject all forms of aggressiveness. “The axe falls first on the tallest trees,” they say. “The rigid pine breaks first in the strong wind. The willow, being flexible, bends and returns its shape for another day.” And again, “Nature does not have to insist. The wind can blow for only half a morning. It can rain for only half a day.”

A gnostic script presents to us a dancing Jesus at the Last Supper in the following words:

Jesus: “Those who do not dance will not comprehend what shall befall.”

Disciples: “Amen.”

Jesus: “Then all of you join my dance. You who dance will see what I have accomplished.”