fortune . . .
It was eighty-four degrees outside while I drove back from Brookline after my shiatsu treatment yesterday. It’s the third week in March and it felt like the middle of May! Since it was so warm outside, I decided to swing by one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Framingham and pick up something for dinner on the way home. I ordered three cold appetizer dishes that weren’t on the regular “take-out” menu: drunken chicken, pickled szechuan cabbage, braised bean curd skin and some brown rice.
When I arrived home, I opened my mail, and in it was a beat-up paperback translation of the “Tao te Ching” dating to the 1960’s that I had found online by chance. I browsed through the introduction which was very long but a few sentences stood out. They were supposedly said by Lao Tzu to Confucius when they first met.
“Rid yourself of arrogance and lustfulness, your ingratiating manners and your excessive ambition. These are all detrimental to your person. This is all I have to say to you.”
“On leaving, Confucius told his disciples,
“I know a bird can fly, a fish can swim and an animal can run. For that which runs, a net can be made; for that which swims, a line can be made; for that which flies a corded arrow can be made. But the dragon’s ascent into heaven on the wind and the clouds is something which is beyond my knowledge. Today, I have seen Lao Tzu who is perhaps like a dragon.” (Lao Tzu-Tao Te Ching translated by D.C.Lau, Penguin Classics, 1963.)
This purported interaction between these two titans of Chinese philosophical thought struck me as I laid out the cool, fragrant dishes of food on our table in the warm evening. The meal was delicious and afterwards, G. and I opened up our fortune cookies. Mine said:
“Good work, good life, good love, good-bye oppression!”
I laughed out loud because this, or something like it, was similar to what C. and I had talked about at my shiatsu session earlier in the day. How would all these Asian instructions harmonize together?
I’ll start with the fortune cookie because that made the most sense to me. In recent posts, I’ve been writing about discovering that utopia was in my own backyard and about retreating in strength. But the fortune cookie’s message was more direct and succinct.
The lucky numbers, four ones at the grocery store, indicated I’d be lucky and learn something new soon (as opposed to winning the megamillions lottery!) So I’ve been thinking that “Giving up arrogance, lustfulness and excessive ambition” (according to Lao Tzu above) might be the rest of the prescription for saying good-bye to oppression (my manners aren’t all that ingratiating so that’s not as much of a problem.)