Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | October 26, 2009

The Way of the Cross

I’m in Book Two of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. I’m reading and meditating on it this time around from the taoist perspective, from the tai chi perspective. I think it’s an interesting experiment to approach my catholicism and Christ as if I were reading some new eastern text with great mystical depth to it. The canon has belonged for so long to a particular group of interpreters, the church in general, but perhaps with the exception of people like Thomas Merton, this comes at the exclusion of approaching these truths they way we embrace, as taoists or tai chi practitioners, the truths of eastern philosophies.

The Way of Christ is the Way of the Cross. We are taught that this life is an alienated life, one with misery and adversity inherent in it. We are asked to walk the way of the Cross, to be accepting of suffering, and to transform it into something positive. In catholicism, it is ultimate union with God the Father in Heaven. Read that sentence knowing it is language used to describe something indescribable.

People often take up certain religions or philosophies in the vain hopes of avoiding the adversities of life, of finding the magic formula to life that will help us be successful and have money and never suffer. Buddhism, taoism, catholicism, all teach us this is not possible. Life is coming and going, up and down, folding and unfolding, yin and yang. Adversity can be used as an opportunity to learn and to grow. How many taoists think that by learning the secrets of synchronicity, they will be able to find a parking space whenever they need one!

Kempis encourages his monks to fly from this world, or worldly things, to be focused on Christ, to not be too familiar with others, to enjoy one’s solitude and silence, to not depend on the things of this world because they are temporal and don’t last. Grace and faith come and go, and it is important to be vigilant and steadfast, to continue on even during the darkest nights of the soul. Yes, this life has its joys and it can be hard too. We were born to labour. We cannot escape that. But in the Christ concept, there is a reward, and this life does have meaning.

In taoism, we learn not to be caught up in the ups and downs. We let them happen and we ride the waves, we go with the flow. We don’t give up on life, we embrace life as it is, and strive to be part of the rhythm, harmony, way. The I Ching encourages us to become superior persons, and to do this through modesty, acceptance, equanimity, and gentleness. If we foster these things they will flow from us and influence those around us. Hexagram 37 of the I Ching tells us, a healthy family, a healthy country, a healthy world, all grow outward from a single superior person.

Taoism, the I Ching, is a guide on how to live our lives in this life, how to deal with life’s adversities, changes, and turning points. It teaches us virtues and characteristics. We grow, we develop, we learn. We understand that we are part of the process, we are the process itself.

What happens after? I don’t know that taoism addresses this. I think we might just get turned under the soil like a farmer’s plantings, and new plantings come up. Does my soul live on, does my individuality remain? I personaly would like to think so. I’m looking forward to more levels, more dimensions, looking back at this life and finally being able to say, ahh, that’s what that was all about.

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