US Election – the aftermath

Everybody on earth knowing
that beauty is beautiful
makes ugliness

Everybody knowing
that goodness is good
makes wickedness

That’s why the wise soul
does without doing
teaches without talking

The things of this world
exist, they are;
you can’t refuse them

The above is from Ursula Le Guin’s version of the Tao Te Ching. One of the insights she gains from this section is that ‘values and beliefs are not only cultural constructs, but part of the interplay of yin and yang, the great reversals that maintain the living balance of the world. To believe that our beliefs are permanent truths which encompass reality is a sad arrogance. To let go of that belief is to find safety.’

I’ve (perhaps not coincidentally since Bush’s win) been quite sick, so I’ve had lots of time to both sit and think while I look at the ceiling, as well as read piles of commentary. Some I relate to in different ways – at first these included anger or bitter disappointment. Later, sadness at the fear in the American people, and the resultant breakdown in civil liberties, and international multilateralism, well analysed by Sid Blumenthal.

I had a taste of one aspect of Le Guin’s understanding looking at old US presidential election maps. Compare the results of the 1960 US presidential election with that from the 2004 election. Quite a reversal (California voting Republican, Texas Democrat). Look at South African legal system – from one of the most conservative to one of the most progressive. There are examples everywhere – the dance of humanity is ongoing and many-stepped. There are no final victories or defeats. Bush’s victory is not the end, nor the beginning. Human suffering remains, as does human joy.

Sometimes, Taoism is seen as a do-nothing philosophy. Exactly! Very profound if you grasp it fully. But that doesn’t mean what it can seem to, and it’s highly different from the much-maligned form of Christianity that existed in South Africa prior to liberation theology. The kind that said “don’t worry about your oppression, God will provide for you later”. It’s not an attitude of “sit on your cushion and be happy while the world falls apart”. Rather, understand and become yourself, and through that, the world around you. Action inevitably follows. Those who have different understandings will continue to act in different ways. The suicide bomber, the soldier, the peace activist, the lover. How important that initial step is. The game of life continues.