The fifth verse of the Tao Te Ching focuses on the temporal but equitable nature of existence in which we are but straw dogs.
“Heaven and earth are impartial; they see the 10,000 things as straw dogs. The sage is not sentimental; he treats all his people as straw dogs.”
It is a rather provocative statement of our role in the physical universe of the 21st century. It is not a comfortable image as straw dogs are too temporal, too much a reminder of our brevity. Within the Tao Te Ching of the 6th century B.C., straw dogs have a role to play for a brief, shining moment, and then, they are gone, only to be followed by more straw dogs.
Impartial existence does not seem all that special.
Stephen Mitchell, a translator of the Tao, has written that “’straw dogs were ritual objects, venerated before the ceremony but afterward abandoned and trampled underfoot’” (as quoted in Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life).
In the Urban Dictionary, a delightful resource, I found seven different meanings of straw dog including one who is “faithful” to snorting cocaine. To me, the Urban Dictionary definition most resembling Mitchell’s translation is “something that is made only to be destroyed”; the sample sentence uses a doll as an example of a straw dog.
My favorite Urban Dictionary straw dog definition is “a word that you interject anytime that you don’t know what word to use but want to make it sound like you’re smart.” The sample sentence illustrates the definition completely in that a nuclear physics speech “seemed like a straw dog compared to other theorys (sic),” definition and example perfect for my pearl book.
Regardless of how many definitions I may find online and elsewhere, any and all of them underscore the temporal nature of the physical universe from a cocaine high to a venerated sacrifice to easing out of an uncomfortable situation by saying something silly. They all pass from existence, as the Tao, the Source of all things, knows:
“To him none are especially dear, nor is there anyone he disfavors.”
In appreciating the straw dogs of the 6th century B.C. within the experience of the 21st century A.D., it is possible to feel the forever of existence, the comfort in knowing that straw dogs follow straw dogs. “With impartial awareness, the sage genuinely sees the sacredness within all the straw dogs in this ceremony we call life” (Dyer).
We are not special unless we all are special.
Imagine a world where all know and accept that existence is a gift for all to be opened, to be lived, and to be left for others. What is special in each of us is our life force. Imagine if we stopped celebrating our separateness and revered our one moment of existence, straw dogs all.
ROW80 Sunday Summary
A brief, mid-week lupus flare limited my reading and writing but it was a brief flare, and I am grateful. I credit its brevity to my better diet (now a weight loss of 66 pounds), to my work with the Tao, to meditating, and to participating in ROW80. Anyone with chronic illness or who is confined for any length of time, can appreciate how important it is to connect with life whenever possible. As a bit of a distraction, I concentrated on re-learning Twitter; fellow ROW80er Morgan Dragonwillow helped me with TweetDeck and when my brain fog cleared a bit, I re-read the Twitter segment of Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone. Who knew a lupus flare could be so productive?
Am halfway into The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. For the first time since seeing the movie Toby Tyler (late 1950’s), I want to run away with a circus, especially one as magical as the Circus of Dreams. I enjoy Morgenstern’s wit and although the time structure is a bit wobbly–I had the same concern in The Time Traveler’s Wife–Morgenstern’s writing keeps me turning the pages.
If you want to read more about my ROW80 progress, please click here.