When my friend’s mother developed dementia, he was discouraged that each day she seemed to be losing so much.
Then he remembered a saying from Taoism: In the way of learning, each day we gain more and more. In the way of the Tao, each day we have less and less.
So often we go through life, hoping that enlightenment is “right around the corner.” Somehow, like a mirage on the horizon, the future recedes and remains out of our grasp.
Or do we perhaps have the wrong idea about what spiritual “progress” might mean in the first place? Is the goal to become enlightened or to accept a truth about our own “clouding?” Toward the end of a long life, in his eighties, Carl Jung wrote in the final words of his autobiography, MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS, where he invokes the founder of Taoism:
“I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself. I am distressed, depressed, rapturous. I am all these things at once, and cannot add up the sum. I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgement about myself and my life. There is nothing I am quite sure about… When Lao-Tzu says ‘All are clear, I alone am clouded,’ he is expressing what I now feel in advanced old age…”
Perhaps we all need more astonishment at everyday life.
Remember the saying of the architect LeCorbusier:
“Less is more?”
Jung’s autobiography (edited by Aniela Jaffe), MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS (Random House, 1965) is available in many editions.
On the many-sided aspects of Jung and his influence, see also: