chapter 8: there’s no such thing as uninterested devotion

by kye on June 19, 2010

The word devotion is sometimes misunderstood as meaning that you have to be less authentic in order to ‘be there’ for the other person. This chapter makes it clear that that is not what is meant.

No, what we’re exploring here, is how one goes about living the most meaningful life possible.

A meaningful life is not a choice between ‘them’ or ‘us’. It’s something magical where our very being, allowed to flow freely, nourishes the life around us. Then our doings are intrinsically meaningful ‘both directions’: they do something significant in the world, and our own natures are fully in play.

So how does that happen, in practice?

Going into my own experience here, I’m noticing that working on this commentary is a good example. I’m devoted to it in a special way that comes from having said I would write a new chapter every week. But that’s no hardship because it’s so satisfying to work on. I don’t even feel like I’m working, exactly. It’s enjoyable.

The commentary pulls me toward itself. I’m in flow. I follow the text searchingly, like water following the land. I’m deeply interested in it, and the more closely I attend to it, the more interested I get.

This is what I meant when I used the word devotion, before. This is how it is for a mother with her child. The mother has an interested care that keeps deepening, the more she engages with her child.

You can’t pretend interest–that is, not on the inside where you actually live. You really are interested, or you’re not. If you’re not, then the thing you’re doing won’t feel meaningful.

What’s being talked about here is not ‘me’ doing good things as an object in an out-there world cut off from my own experiencing. No: it’s the feeling I have at this very moment, a feeling of the good effect of my being, in the world.

the very most meaningful life is a lot like water

water is good at benefiting everything
but it doesn’t fight against itself to do so
it’s content to flow in its own natural path
it doesn’t disdain its path just because it’s ‘low’
it flows wherever it naturally flows
even if that’s where the ‘lowest’ people are
in this way it’s very much like Tao

in building a dwelling, what matters is to sense the solidity of the ground and the structure
in things of the heart and mind, what matters is to sense yourself diving into your depths
in human relations, what matters is to sense your own humanity in the relating
in speaking, what matters is to sense yourself speaking faithfully
in leading, what matters is to sense the way that
all these ingredients can work together to make a harmonious whole
in serving, what matters is to sense what you in particular can contribute
in acting, what matters is sensing the right moment

but above all, what matters is to sense that you’re not going against nature
don’t fight your own nature, and you won’t experience resentment

— Kye Nelson: translation and commentary on Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching

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©2010 Kye Nelson

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