“That which contracts has surely expanded.
That which grows weak has surely been strong.
That which fades has surely been bright…”
Tao te Ching, Translation & Commentary by Charles Johnson
I can’ be sure of the initial intent of this line of thought, but it certainly brought death to mind. It represents dying in a very useful (and lacking a more descriptive word) better way. But I really need to expand on this.
It also has relevance to a few other useful analogies, or lines of thought, that I use to try and formulate a reasonable thought about people dying. It can also be used to come to terms with the way in which life’s happenings and relationships come and go.
Starting with the quote from the Tao te Ching, something has expanded and become bright. This brings to mind a previous state, which is part of a whole, that this ‘thing’ expanded from. In the Tao te Ching this could be the Tao, or the One. So, immediately I see a connotation of something not leaving but returning. Something, or someone, is returning back to something larger than themselves, not leaving the world.
‘The circle of life’ from Lion King may come to mind..
I will expand this thought with an analogy used in the book Siddartha by Herman Hesse. The analogy is life as a river. The river, and the water, is hear now in the form a murmuring stream. However, it was in the mountains earlier. It will continue downstream on whatever path is chosen. Eventually, it will return to the ocean. In the book, the main character sees this as how our lives past, present, and future are connected. They are connected, but the water and the character can only be here; present. We are here, we are going there, and will one day return. We all return to the One (ocean, the whole, Tao). Our life has sound and motion. There are not any stopping points in this cycle. You broke into existence and you remain in the existence. As you remain in existence you are expanding. Becoming brighter and expanding are forms of progress.
How do you view that progress as something that has an end, and doesn’t just go on forever. If you live forever you would be a God, and it’s written in stories that the Gods envy men because man is mortal. Getting a little help from Steven Pressfield (War of Art) we can continue;
(This is already getting a little out there, I know, and maybe starting to sound a like I’ve been in the books a little too long forgetting to come up for air but hang on cause we’re going deeper.)
Steven Pressfield quotes William Blake in his book when he says, “Eternity is in love with the creations of time.” To Pressfield that means the higher beings (Gods, angles, etc.) are enthused by our creations as we exist in the sphere of time. Our growth, progress, creations, expansion, and light is what the Gods are impressed by because we only exist in a frame of time.
What’s forever interesting is the fact that time-frame has an end is the most important part of what makes that expansion, progress, and light so special. Eternity is the Whole, and the Existence, and from that you bring forth your progress and creation. What makes it special is there’s only a limited time for it, before you (and others) return to the eternity from which you came forth.
In the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, it was said that the Cheyenne Tribe death song, or one of them, could be translated into;
“Nothing lives long, only the Earth and the mountains”
We are on this path, with the desire to expand our existence, because that is what we were born to do. The brighter the expansion, the harder the fading will be. But, it is all necessary in the journey, because we exist in the sphere of time and that is what makes any of it worth experiencing. Besides, nothing lives long, only the Earth and the mountains.