Tomorrow, within hours of US President-Elect Barack Obama's inauguration, my youngest son will board a plane and fly North West from New Zealand to Hungary to embark on a semester's exchange at Corvinus University.
Parenting has to be one of life's most extravagant gifts and, too, one of its fiercest and - at times - ache-inducing learning opportunities. Certainly, it's a call to practice over and over again, the paradoxical dance of full engagement and compassionate detachment. I wholeheartedly celebrate my son going off on this exciting adventure, and at the same time... well, frankly - pang!
This evening, feeling somewhat tender-hearted, I came across the following translation of the eighth 'image' (I'm not sure what else to call it) from Lao Tzu's gentle Tao Te Ching - it covers a great deal of ground in its fourteen short lines, touching lightly on the ideal that we be as adaptable, unbinding and generous as possible in our affections. Also in there is the suggestion that straightforwardness and honesty in government are tantamount to goodness. In the same image multiple scenarios are addressed that might ordinarily be argued as being miles apart, their interchangeability making it seem perfectly normal to find them side-by-side.
The very best we can be is like water.
Reflect on the value of water:
It benefits all creatures, without competing,
It settles in places people dislike;
Yes, this is very close to the way.
Goodness in a house is its foundations,
Goodness in a mind is its depth,
Goodness in companions is their kindness,
Goodness in speaking is sincerity,
Goodness in government is straightforwardness,
Goodness in work is skill,
Goodness in movement is timing.
It is only by not competing
that we can avoid going wrong.