I seem to remember when I was very small how my older sisters used to read me fairy tales from children’s books. They were scary stories full of wolves and bears and crocodiles and though the colorful characters all wore smiles on their faces those grins were always full of sharp and pointed teeth. Though I was frightened I couldn’t bring myself to turn away.
I learned to write my letters by tracing their geometric patterns with a finger on my thigh as my sisters read. After the reading was done and I was supposed to be sleeping I would crawl from bed to get my crayons and my coloring book to try my hand at tracing the letters for real. Though I tried again and again I remember how I could never seem to get them quite right.
I thought how the patterns of my creation should mirror the objects of my ideas. It surprised me when they did not. I thought if only I mastered those patterns then they would be true representations of the world. So I practiced all the time. But I never got them right. When I grew older I knew this as the beginning of folly.
Though we tell ourselves we are creatures of intellect and reason we live within a myth-bound world. Science has taught us that only the objective world has value. This is called the myth of independence.
One day I learned to sit quietly; the world began to slow down. The more I practiced the more the world slowed until in the stillness of my heart I came upon the memory of the mystery. How could I have forgotten?
One who remembers the mystery comes to see that objects begin with the idea of those objects; objects do not exist as independent things apart and forever separate from the observer of them. By neglecting the mystery the world is its own beginning.
When the mystery is forgotten, goodness arises. When goodness is forgotten, kindness arises. When kindness is forgotten, justice arrives. When justice is forgotten, ritual comes into being.
Ritual is the belief in these representations of experience, not in the mystery of the source. Ritual is the beginning of confusion. To know the future is to believe in the trappings of experience. This is known as the beginning of folly.
Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom connected with true virtue. I am neither proud of my wealth nor do I flatter others in my poverty. Though I find myself living a life of wealth I uphold the rules of propriety. Should I lose all my riches to become mired in poverty I hold onto my cheerfulness. This is known as sustaining the proper sequence.
When people are guided by laws they seek to avoid punishment but have no sense of shame. If people are led by virtue and learn to follow decorum they develop a sense of shame; they become good of their own accord without threat of retribution. For a person to sacrifice to a god that doesn’t feel right to them is known as flattery. To see what is right and not to do it is known as lack of courage.
These days I write the stories that others read. I call them my stories yet they are but mirrors of the mystery. If I tried to force them into being in the same way I used to work at copying those letters from the books my sisters read to me I would fail to get the stories right. Rather, these stories arise from nowhere; they are not my stories any more than is the world. They are not meant to impress the readers but to perhaps inspire them to lead a better life.
When I do a good turn I do not see the good that I do. When a fool tries to do a good turn they brag about it and so it is not good. By not-doing anything I leave nothing undone. A fool is always doing something and so much remains to be done.
It is needless to speak of things that are done; it is needless to remonstrate about things that have run their course; it is needless to blame things that are past. Why should I contemplate high offices filled with indulgent generosity, ceremonies performed without reverence, or mourning conducted without sorrow?
I dwell on what is real and not what is merely on the surface. I focus on the fruit and not on the flower. I accept one and reject the other.
The cautious seldom err.