A Catholic Walks with Dao
A mother attempts to control a child through shame and fear. The mother wants others to affirm her goodness. Church authority tells her she’s righteous, nodding to hurtful words from millennia of tradition. Doesn’t she realize that words of exclusion and shame come not from Jesus but from those who grasp at power?
In thinking about the judgments used against this younger member of my family, I’m saddened the mother calls herself “Catholic.”
A tradition’s first revelation, the source of a belief, is often inspired and becomes the heart of a new way. Better if humans left it at that, but we don’t leave it at that. Later interpretations often diverge from the heart in order to create institutions that secure authority. Why? Because people desire power and clarity, while equanimity and questions make them anxious.
I don’t pity my Catholic sister or other Christians as confused or manipulated. I certainly don’t hate them. In fact, I don’t think about them much at all. The farther I walk with Dao the less I care about those whose stories diverge so much from mine. In other words, it’s none of my business what my sister thinks or why. But her daughter suffers, and her daughter has a story much like mine.
So I’ve been thinking. We have the Beatitudes, the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Choices that don’t use this heart are not truly following Jesus. The same can be said for Dao. Daodejing revealed the heart of Dao, and the many religions, rituals, and magic that arose over the centuries since Laozi distract from the heart and serve another purpose. In other words, I have no interest in becoming immortal or directing my chi, either.
I just walk with Dao.
The eight Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3–12 during the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
One of my favorite translations of Daodejing is by Ursula LeGuin and here’s why:
Scholarly translations of the Tao Te Ching as a manual for rulers use a vocabulary that emphasizes the uniqueness of the Taoist “sage,” his masculinity, his authority. This language is perpetuated, and degraded, in most popular versions. I wanted a Book of the Way accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, and perhaps unmale reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul. I would like that reader to see why people have loved the book for twenty-five hundred years. It is the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing. Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water. (LeGuin, Ursula K. Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way (Kindle Locations 201–206). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.)
Most people quote the beginning words of Book One, but the most meaningful to me are a few lines down:
So the unwanting soul sees what’s hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants.