Saturday, May 27, 2006

In the yard with my cat

Today I went walking around the back yard with my cat Lola, watching her chewing on the plants. I do a lot of gardening and we have a yard that is full of various plants, weeds and flowers. Generally, I like to let things grow wild and pull only the weeds. Too many borders and edgings and lines and the garden stops being aesthetically pleasing to me. It's hard to get the right balance between nature and my work, but it's getting there.

Lola spends a lot of time chewing, but she also likes to sniff the flowers. It's fascinating to watch her with the plants. Her eyes narrow and she gets really calm; this is a pretty rare state for her, believe me! She's in her element outside. walking around the plants. She's not very comfortable with other cats, but she has some sort of sympathy with flowers.

It's so easy for her to be in the world. For me, so much of the time, it's difficult to just do this. I get stressed out about my university work, or money, or the state of the nation, and I forget to just exist in the world. And then summer comes, and I walk around in the scents, and I feel loving again. I feel alive again.

This is who I am, this wandering, curious, engaged being. The rest is the flotsom and jetsom of social decorum. How to resist this? How do we strike the balance between self and society?

Someone once said that modern history is a war between Authority and Desire, and if Authority must demand submission, Desire will settle for nothing less than the attainment of its gratification. I think it's fretting really- the fear and resentment of it that forces us to side with Authority against Desire. Many times I've been in arguments with people about some stupid law or "government crack-down" and I've argued that the law was needless and paranoid, and they've finally given up and whined "But, those people are criminals!"

1) The law is just because,
2) if you break it, you're a criminal.

And yet, desire and authority seem to exist in a balance as well. My curiosity drives my scholarship, and yet the authority of the elder scholars shapes how that scholarship develops. Authority can be elevating, and not repressing. It is always rewarding to spend time with people who are smarter than you are.

But, is this authority, this authoritative wisdom that demands no submission? Isn't it something else? Is all order authority?

Or, is order an illusion? That's how I take this section of Lao Tzu:
For is and is-not come together;
Hard and easy are complimentary;
Long and short are relative;
High and low are comparative;
Pitch and sound make a harmony;
Before and after are a sequence.

These are not absolute states, but relative markers that exist within human understanding, and which cannot exist without each other. This is how we order the world. And so, Lao Tzu got here before Kant. Or even before Einstein/Heisenberg.

But, Lola didn't have to get here at all.

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