Beyond Superficial

by Christopher Lovejoy on July 7, 2013

As a state of being implies depth, I cannot be superficial, but I can imagine acting superficially most if not all of the time, making me wonder what role superficiality plays in having fulfillment.

In Beyond Appearances, I viewed Presence as a vital influence in a life lived authentically, with integrity, through intimacy. This post follows a similar vein, focused on living serenely, with tranquility.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 45

This verse gives us permission to let the energies and events of this world be as they are, to wax and wane, to rise and fall, as and when they do, while encouraging us to maintain a sense of constancy with the intelligent invisibility that keeps everything stable yet variable and mutable.

The greatest
perfection
seems imperfect,
and yet its use
is inexhaustible.
The greatest
fullness
seems empty,
and yet its use
is endless.

Great straightness
seems twisted.
Great intelligence
seems stupid.
Great eloquence
seems awkward.
Great truth
seems false.
Great discussion
seems silent.

Activity
conquers cold;
inactivity
conquers heat.
Serenity
and tranquility
keep things in order
with the universe.

Edited slightly by yours truly to enhance the flow of text

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

These words of wisdom are as profound as they are powerful.

In reading them, we would do well to remind ourselves that serenity and tranquility are two sides of the same proverbial coin of a stable, enduring manifesting Presence.

Where serenity is inner (state), tranquility is outer (condition), ideally manifesting as a unified experience for the individual person as One perception, as One perspective in present moment awareness.

My Impressions of the Verse

Where verse 41 (Beyond Appearances) alerts us to the play of opposites in keeping with the Way by way of personal conduct, this verse addresses the role of opposites in manifesting form through formlessness.

The greatest
perfection
seems imperfect,
and yet its use
is inexhaustible.
The greatest
fullness
seems empty,
and yet its use
is endless.

These wise words of paradox pay homage to the unseen, the unheard, the unknown; there is no apparent end to how much and how well the 10,000 things of this world can manifest and there is no apparent end to how much we can appreciate them and learn from them.

When the mind strains competently for perfection, imperfections invariably arise to provide contrasting appreciations of perfection; when the heart yields to fullness, its apparent emptiness serves a contrasting point of reference for filling up and filling out on the way to fullness.

In other words, the ideal of perfection, even when it seems imperfect at its perceived height, fuels opportunities for learning and growth, for inspiration and aspiration; fullness of being, even when it seems empty, fuels opportunities for opening the heart to intuitive promptings.

Great straightness
seems twisted.
Great intelligence
seems stupid.
Great eloquence
seems awkward.
Great truth
seems false.
Great discussion
seems silent.

Recall that Great = Boundless. From the perspective of boundlessness, every attribute in existence carries a hint or a taste of its opposite, which by contrast serves to highlight the attribute itself. Empirically speaking, boundlessly straight lines invariably seem a bit twisted.

Insistence also breeds resistance to completion. The more I insist on being wise and intelligent, I more I risk appearing or seeming foolish or stupid. The more I insist on being eloquent, the more I risk appearing or seeming awkward. The more I insist on truth, the more it seems false.

Profound thinkers already know that great discussion, being profound, seems relatively silent by comparison to a casual, free-flowing discussion.

Activity
conquers cold;
inactivity
conquers heat.
Serenity
and tranquility
keep things in order
with the universe.

Goethe once said that adversity is best met with fresh activity; perhaps too much activity is best met with no activity or with activity that is more effective and/or efficient. Be that as it may, expectations cool in the face of serenity and tranquility. When expectations get too hot, too attached to the surface of things, a steady dose of serenity in the midst of tranquility just might restore the balance.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

In light of the foregoing, what role might superficiality play in allowing personal fulfillment to manifest in present moment awareness?

The surface lends itself to knowing depth. The shallow end of a pool is made evident by moving into the depths. By having conscious access to both surface and depth, I have more flexibility in shaping my experience, especially since so much of what I think, say, and do is conditioned by past experience.

In the flow of everyday experience, I have no control over the emergence of my urges and impulses. I can stop them cold, but thankfully, I cannot prevent them from showing up. Otherwise, I would have no clues to my needs and desires, as urges point to needs and impulses point to desires.

In my experience, transmuting urges into consciously felt needs and refining impulses with consciously felt desires are best done when I cultivate serenity by way of tranquility. Anyone can do this. All it takes is getting up early on a Sunday morning and going for a meditative stroll. Of course, many other ways allow me to cultivate serenity by way of tranquility (or vice versa).

When I assume conscious control of transmuting and refining my urges and impulses for the sake of my needs and desires, I am that much more able to gauge the consequences of insistence.

Must is the watchword of insistence, and as insistence on completion and perfection paradoxically breeds resistance to completion and perfection, I would do well to monitor my expectations of same.

As I mentioned, expectations cool in the presence of serenity and tranquility. When expectations get too hot, too attached to the surface of things, I lose access to depth – to my depth, to the depths of others, and to the depths of things – and, at least for me, only a steady dose of serenity in the midst of tranquility (or a steady dose of tranquility for the sake of serenity) can restore the balance.

This way, I get to discern when to allow whatever I feel, deep within, to guide me and to move me, to manifest my destiny with relative grace and ease.

Next up: Living Contentedly (Living Peacefully)

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

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