A Time and A Place

by Christopher Lovejoy on March 17, 2013

There’s a time and a place for everything.

This idiom, like many such idioms, can be traced to the holy bible.

This idiom can be traced back to Ecclesiastes 3:1, which states to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Essentially, every thing is a reference to the actions of conscious beings and to the events that occur to and for them, not only in the realm of creation, but in the realm of divine providence.

According to biblical scholarship, the term season is broadly interpreted as “fitting time”.

Thus, to every action of a conscious being and to every event that occurs to and for this conscious being, there is a fitting time, and a time to every purpose conceived and realized under heaven.

In my reading of the Tao Te Ching, the Tao is viewed both as a source of creation and a source of providence.

As a spiritual being in human form, I am not only a product of divinely informed creation, I am also a product of divinely inspired providence.

With this context in mind, let us delve into a verse that speaks to the role of providence especially.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 29

The inflated ego is a mighty thing to behold.

That is, until it loses steam and deflates into a crumpled, withered version of its former glory.

But let us not be too hard on the ego; it does have its time and its place as a functional reservoir of energy and intent, tending as it does towards excesses, extravagances, and extremes.

For how we could we ever appreciate what is enough without those egoic companions known as excessive, extravagant, and extreme?

Do you think
you can take over
the universe
and improve it?
I do not believe
it can be done.

Everything under heaven
is a sacred vessel
and cannot be controlled.
Trying to control leads to ruin;
trying to grasp, we lose.

Allow your life
to unfold naturally.
Know that it too
is a vessel of perfection.

Just as you
breathe in and breathe out,
there is a time for being ahead
and a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion
and a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous
and a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe
and a time for being in danger.

To the sages,
all of life is a movement
toward perfection,
so what need have they
for the excessive,
the extravagant,
or the extreme?

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

For many, the excessive, the extravagant, and the extreme are thrilling beyond belief. For many others, enough is enough inside a sphere of contentment. For many others still, both have their time and place in balance, in a good life lived well.

This is the reality of life on planet earth inside a boundless, neverending cosmic drama.

My Impressions of the Verse

Verse 29 serves up both advice and warning, reminding us yet again of the beauty of balance, even as it cautions us to heed the consequences of having too much, seeking too many, and going too far.

Still, there is much to learn in the attempts.

Do you think
you can take over
the universe
and improve it?
I do not believe
it can be done.

Much has been made of human intelligence being puny and insignificant compared to divine intelligence, but this comparison misses an important point: human intelligence is an expression of divine intelligence.

The formless is to the formed as divine intelligence is to human intelligence.

I liken human intelligence to an embryonic, evolving expression of divine intelligence. As such, human intelligence is capable of extraordinary feats as and when it allows divine intelligence to inform and transform its experience.

At their height in the 1980s, in a decade of excess, the Extropians were convinced they could take over the universe and improve it, pushing for the elimination of limitation caused by aging, disease, and biological constraint.

They’ve since tempered their ambitions, retreating to commitment, but they’ve persuaded this writer that it can be done.

For me, the question remains: at the risk of losing our humanity, should it be done?

Or are such radical improvements inevitable?

Everything under heaven
is a sacred vessel
and cannot be controlled.
Trying to control leads to ruin;
trying to grasp, we lose.

At the time of Lao Tzu, many thousands of years ago, this portion of the verse made sense. Today, however, with advancing technology, we need to read this with a little more care.

Viewing high tech as a double-edged sword, human intelligence can do much to control outcomes, but even the Extropians knew that such control is best exercised reasonably and responsively with prudent scenario planning.

Worse case scenario: we destroy the world; best case scenario: we transform it into a paradise of peace and prosperity.

Allow your life
to unfold naturally.
Know that it too
is a vessel of perfection.

Life is a process; allowing it to unfold naturally has its time and place, but then so does informing ourselves on how best to improve the human condition (or ourselves) without unintended consequences causing undue harm to the process.

Just as you
breathe in and breathe out,
there is a time for being ahead
and a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion
and a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous
and a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe
and a time for being in danger.

There is a time and a place for contraction and expansion, limitation and liberation, deprivation and exhilaration. We live, love, and learn in a world of duality after all; perhaps we would do well to live with the polarities and help others to do the same.

The Extropians retreated to commitment for a reason.

To the sages,
all of life is a movement
toward perfection,
so what need have they
for the excessive,
the extravagant,
or the extreme?

This could be read in one of two ways: (1) look at the sages; if they don’t need excess, extravagance, and extremes, why should you?; or (2) take your time; if all of life is a movement toward perfection, keep the excessive, the extravagant, and the extreme in perspective.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

In my reading of the Tao Te Ching, the same theme keeps coming up: allowing and accepting, receiving and responding, is the Way to unity and harmony. Says Lao Tzu: the way to do is to be.

But there’s something, like an itch that can never be scratched, in the nature of spiritual beings running around in human form – call it thymos if you must – that can not or will not abide in being: it’s not enough to simply be; we must also have and do, have and do, have and do, and then have and do some more, and then some more, and then some more, even at the risk of getting lost in the midst of striving and compensating.

I addressed this resistance to contentment in the introduction to my post A Context for Contentment.

What I’d like to do here is to broach the idea of divine providence, whether said providence be personal or impersonal.

In the Tao Te Ching, such providence seems more impersonal than personal. Although references to the great Mother and Father are made, I must wonder if these references are modern impositions on the original text.

Perhaps human consciousness needed time to evolve to a place where it could conceive of and receive divine providence as personal.

Be that as it may, divine providence is perceived by many as synchronicity in the form of meaningful coincidence, in response to prayer or as an expression of the Law of Attraction.

Divine can be read in two ways: “this is an answer to my prayer” or “this is simply divine”.

With the art of surrender, by way of beauty, harmony, and serenity, intimacy is my preferred way of being a witness to my own evolution, transformation, and realization. In this light, ecstasy is the emotional signature of fulfillment in the realm of divine providence.

In the realm of divine providence, where synchronicities come and go, a balanced trinity of innocence, nurturance, and guidance unconditionally and consistently maintained is the preferred means to knowing which way to be, which way to turn, and which way to go.

Life can be so much easier when you follow your heart, when you know in your heart that someone or something has your back.

I encourage you to play with this idea, to give it a try, to see if there is, in deed, a time and a place for everything under the sun.

Next up: We Can Do Better (Living without Force)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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