This Way Up

Sometimes, we find in our work that we have made a mistake. But all mistakes were not created equal and in the 'mistake' we may perceive the outlines of opportunity, the creative outlet of 'mistake' in 'make'. To look at the word's origins, however, we get obscurity and denial. The word comes from mistaka, "to take in error, miscarry" - the latter, from "to go astray; come to harm".
The mistake is a warning - a wrong turn has been taken, there is no going back. But what if, after making a 'mistake' one nonetheless chooses to get back on track, to find, again, that red thread that leads out of the labyrinth? Through the power of the imagination, we can seek to interpret differently and escape the beast of narrow corridors. We were not born for such constriction.
This is called the 'gentle' way. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life. But, at least in English, gentle has to do with being well-born. Not all are so noble: some choose to reside in the narrowest places. For them, other's mistakes are to be ridiculed so they can stand tall, even if their new line of vision blinds them to what there is to make out of a mistake. Crede, ut intelligas: believe that you may understand. Those who are at the literal level of life lack the will for the analytical work that would allow them to see behind the fortress walls, into the palace.
Everyone wants their own palace to be recognised, no matter how invisible. They want people to look past their rough exterior and 'rescue' them, from their own context, even though they are not always willing to 'rescue' others in return. It is always in our interest to rescue because this saves us from our own error. And this is why, paradoxically, if a person doesn't allow us to creatively correct our mistake, he or she is then making the mistake. So quickly, the roles are reversed.
This morning, as the birds assembled outside my window sang their opera once again, I wondered how I could get work done in a soft way. I wondered whether the etymology of 'soft' could teach me something. It is 'fitting, agreeable'. Nothing punishing about it. It is 'gentle, easy'. This reminded me of the verse of the Tao Te Ching from which this blog derives its title. "A man is born gentle and weak. At his death he is hard and stiff. Green plants are tender and filled with sap. At their death they are withered and dry. Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life. Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle. A tree that is unbending is easily broken. The hard and strong will fall. The soft and weak will overcome." LXXVI


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