Tag Archives: cause and effect

Chuck’s Place: I Fought The Tao and The Tao Won

In the Tao…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Sometimes a song gets into the head and keeps on playing. For me it’s generally a spirit sending a message. The other day I sang the line “I fought the law and the law won”. The tune hooked Jan as well and she found herself a little frustrated that my tune successfully suggested itself to her own subconscious with incessant replays!

Of course, as always, I searched for the synchronous relevance of the message to our lives. It came quickly that the law is the Tao, and the Tao always wins. I understand the Tao to be the underlying rules of nature that control all of life. The central rule of the Tao is the law of cause and effect: Every action will cause a reaction.

A common example of this would be karma. When we recapitulate our lives we will determine what we must do next, based upon the life we have lived. The actions of our lives are the causes that determine the reactions—where life will take us next.

Strictly speaking, everything is Tao. All actions cause reactions, thus all actions are indeed part of the Tao. Thus, even a hurtful action is part of the Tao and will be appropriately compensated for by a reaction of equal intensity. Nonetheless, the expression to be in the Tao means to respond in the best possible way, the most efficient, least line of resistance to a given situation.

Nature herself expresses the Tao at its most favorable action. The waters of a stream accumulate most patiently in a crevice, awaiting the moment of saturation for the stream to proceed upon its course. Humans are endowed with the ability to take the Tao to extremes in their decision making, losing the favorable status of being in the Tao.

Thus, if someone is aggressive and cutting, the best response might be to go inward, depersonalize the action, have compassion for the other’s state of imbalance, then calmly move on. To challenge the offender is another option, which will illicit its own reaction. Both actions are governed by the Tao, however, the former may be said to be in the Tao.

The Taoist oracle, the I Ching, teaches us the Tao of all changes, while also highlighting the best actions to take to remain in the Tao when confronted with any situation. Most mornings, before sunrise, Jan and I feed a couple of feral cats up the road. We wear headlamps to find our way in the dark. For two days in a row, as the tune “I fought the law…” moved through me, I was attacked by giant hornets along the road, apparently attracted to the light.

On the second day, as we walked Jan’s beautiful quartz labyrinth before sunrise, I was again attacked by a giant hornet that actually made me jump into another rung of the labyrinth. Mind you, we have routinely done these behaviors for weeks and never been attacked.

Suddenly, it dawned on us that autumn has arrived and that the hornets are confused and jumpy, as their end is near. We were adding to their confusion, bringing light into night, and they were reacting to this intrusion. We realized that indeed we were fighting the Tao’s law of the change of seasons, and that law had won.

The next morning we waited until sunrise to feed the cats and walk the labyrinth. We were indeed in the Tao; no attacks, just a calm, thankful meow.

Might I suggest, to the subconscious of all, another Taoist mantra for your listening pleasure:

All you need is love, love is all you need, love is all you need, love is all you need…..

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,


Chuck’s Place: Sympathy For The Devil

The devil you know…

The great value an exhaustively repeated negative behavior pattern offers is the irrefutable evidence it provides for learning the law of cause and effect. At a certain point, after finding ourselves in the same place, after repeating the same set of behaviors, we can say to ourselves with confidence and certainty: “If I say, do or think such and such, I will feel frustrated, disappointed, angry, hopeless and depressed.”

Of course, as St. Paul humbly admitted, knowing the law of cause and effect is no guarantee that the same demon compulsion won’t steal the show again and again and again!

Nonetheless, realizing the law of cause and effect with respect to a behavioral pattern is the first step in overcoming ignorance, what the Buddists call avidya. Overcoming ignorance is the only way to change our karma, if we understand karma to be the inevitable outcome of repetitive behavior. It might feel like punishment, but in truth karma rests completely in our own hands as the law of cause and effect demonstrates: repeat the same behavior, cause the same outcome.

If we remain ignorant of the outcomes of our behaviors we stay glued to them. Each day we wake up to our revitalized, reincarnated selves, still bound to the karma of the ignorance of the self we went to sleep with. This endless round of repetition is, however, essential, as each revolution of the wheel accrues irrefutable evidence of the karmic law of cause and effect.

Some day, in some life, it will serve to awaken us from our sleepy repetitive selves with knowledge and a readiness to change. We will simply know too much to be fooled once again. We know where it definitely leads and we don’t need to go there one more time. We have too much experience to take the bait. The tasty morsel or seductive promise of the entity—the devil behind the compulsion—is no longer interesting. The entity is dismissed, freed to move on to new life, mission accomplished, and so are we. Ironically, the entity is a slave to our own awakening and remains bound to us until we can honestly tell it to leave.

These devils, or petty tyrants as the shamans of Ancient Mexico called them, are actually our liberators. Those shamans sought to come under the influence of such devilish petty tyrants so that they might shed any vestige of self-importance, a critical component of achieving total freedom and fully awakening to our true selves and fullest potential.

Our petty tyrants…

Petty tyrants come in many forms, visible and invisible. Visible tyrants are those in our lives—family members, bosses, politicians, abusers, etc. Invisible petty tyrants show up as compulsions, overwhelming moods and emotions, limiting beliefs, and spellbinding projections that land on people and objects in the world.

What all tyrants have in common is their ability to force us into repetitive negative behavior patterns—they bind our lives; they control our karma. They attack our most vulnerable selves, the core of our self worth, without mercy!

We feel stuck, worthless, hopeless, out of control, overly in control, helpless, frozen, fatalistic, or even suicidal/homicidal in reaction to our tyrants. How can we possibly evolve in such a circumstance? How can we ever be free? So begins the cycle of repetitive negative behavior in thought, word, and deed that begins our training in the law of cause and effect. These negative patterns of self-hate and hate of others, of self-imprisonment and imprisonment of others, might last a lifetime or perhaps many lifetimes, however, our wheel of repetition is ultimately our wheel of liberation.

Once we learn the law of cause and effect, we are freed to detach from our devilish tyrant that has lost its power over us. Detachment means that our power is withdrawn from the tyrant; it can no longer hold us in check. We are then freed to fully move on to greater fulfillment, karma erased.

If we don’t feel compassion for our disempowered tyrant/devil that has held our power for us until we were ready to claim it through choice and change, we are caught in another permutation of the same karma, negative pattern revisited. Anger at the tyrant binds our energy to it, and so we are still not free.

True freedom means no attachment whatsoever to the energy of the tyrant, only gratitude for a job well done. Ultimate freedom lies in sympathy for the devil, as we both part ways and move away into new life.


Here is a rendition of The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil by Rickie Lee Jones.