Monday, November 2, 2020

five ways to lose

With the wood from a hundred-year-old tree
They make sacrificial vessels,
Covered with green and yellow designs.
The wood that was cut away
Lies unused in the ditch.
If we compare the sacrificial vessels with the wood in the ditch
We find them to differ in appearance:
One is more beautiful than the other
Yet they are equal in this: both have lost their original nature.
So if you compare the robber and the respectable citizen
You find that one is, indeed, more respectable than the other:
Yet they agree in this: they have both lost 
The original simplicity of man.

How did they lose it?  Here are the five ways:
Love of colors bewilders the eye
And it fails to see right.
Love of harmonies bewitches the ear
And it loses its true hearing.
Love of perfumes
Fills the head with dizziness.
Love of flavors
Ruins the taste.
Desires unsettle the heart
Until the original nature runs amok.

These five are enemies of true life.
Yet these are what "men of discernment" claim to live for.
They are not what I live for:
If this is life, then pigeons in a cage
Have found happiness!

~ Chuang Tzu
translation by Thomas Merton