Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Thinking About the Tao

This post from Dr. B

and teaching my students Monkey this semester and talking to the kid about Coyote and what a trickster is and how complex good and evil are, actually, in the real world, as opposed to in the minds of certain, ahem, thinkers who shall remain unnamed here, and then a fine and wonderful story from the Other Liberal Professer, all have me pondering the complex planet we have landed on, this one here.

See, the Other Liberal Professor drove down the state this past weekend, in her van, alone, to take her kids to visit the grandparents. You might recall that the Other Liberal Professor just had a new infant this summer. So she has a four year old, Miles, and a five month old, Mick.* And you may remember that it is hot as a bitch in Arkansas these days? Well, it is.

Anyway, she is on her way back home from the visit, going 75 on the interstate, when the tire on her van blows out -- KAPOW! -- while she is in the left-hand lane. Tire bits fly everywhere. Van rocketing like its about to fly apart. They're in Little Rock, so the traffic is insane and roaring around them -- people in Arkansas drive 90 and tailgate -- but they are not killed, they get to the side of the road.

"Let me see," Miles demands. "I need to see. What's wrong with the van? Let me see it!"

"No, really," the Other Liberal Professor says. "Interstate. Not safe."

"I need to see!"

She lets him have a look. "See? The tire is blown."

"Oh! If I only had my toolbox!"

And you would have to know Miles, who, though he is only four, does in fact have actual tools, and, if he did have his toolbox, well.

A van pulls up in front of the Other Liberal Professor, right then, and a woman hops out. "Now don't worry!" she says. "Don't be afraid. "My husband is getting out! But don't worry! He's just going to help you!"

He does, too. They're both about sixty, it's near a hundred degrees on the side of the highway, and -- get this -- they're in Little Rock because their son has been in a terrible car accident and might not live, so they have been up all night -- and yet: they stop and he changes the tire and they follow the Other Liberal Professor off the road and make sure she has someone she can call (because the tire had blown due to some malfunction of the underframe, so the spare and the other tire is like to blow soon too) to come to Little Rock and fetch her, and everyone is chatting and talking and the Other Liberal Professor is thinking, what a fine world this is, what beautiful people, to help a stranger this way, what would I have done, in blistering heat with two small children on the side of the road if they hadn't stopped, trying to change that tire on my own, and she's talking to them about where they are from, the way folks do if they're from the South, and they're from Florida, it transpires, and they have just moved to Arkansas, down the state, not Little Rock, that's why they had to drive all night, they live in some little podunk Arkansas town down in the Delta.

"Oh," says the Other Liberal Professor. "Why did you move there?"

"To get away from all the Mexicans," says her helpful hero. "Couldn't take all those Mexicans down there in Florida anymore. They were everywhere. Like bugs."

Now this had both me and the Other Liberal Professor staggering. And laughing.

But it ought not to have, really. It's what the Tao tells us -- we live with good and evil, we are all good and evil, everyone is Monkey, really. Everyone's Coyote. He does saves his people from the Spider demon, and he sleeps with his own sister. He farts, he sings like an angel. It's the same guy. So are we. We act nobly, then with the same heart, with the same set of lungs, with the same mind and soul, we speak evil.

What to do about this critter, this human?

Be it, says the Tao. It's what you are.

I keep looking for some sort of better answer, but.

*Not their real names. Those are their blogosphere names. But aren't they cool names? They're like rock star names. What lucky kids. The Other Liberal Professor and I picked them out together. They also have cool actual names, btw.

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