The Way of Nothing

Karl Constantine FOLKES 1935 (Portland)

If the truth be told.
Desire not to desire.
Is still desire.
It is not an uncarved block.
As TAO would inform us.

Lack of desire.
Will breed lust for desire.
The human fault line.
Yield, thus, to doing nothing.
Serenity yields wisdom.

The Way of Nothing.
Is the Way of Everything.
Like a circle’s void.
Empty, yet full of meaning.
Empty, yet defining All.

About this poem

The human lack of material desire begins when one, being sanctified, and filled with the Holy Spirit, lacks for nothing. Pondering on this thought, and wishing to discover something new and perchance gain some sacred wisdom to apply to and transform my material outlook, I willy nilly opened Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching, an ancient, esoteric, philosophical Chinese text of wisdom poetry, written around 400 BC and translated and published by Chad Hansen (2009) as a “Guide of Ways and Virtues. ” My random opening of the book directed me to Poem (“Chapter”) Number Thirty Seven, entitled “Primitive Lack of Desire.” In the text the poem reads quizzically as follows: “Ways fix on not acting from constructs. Yet nothing is not assigned a construct. If fief-holding kings could sustain it, 10,000 natural kinds should self-transform. If transforming encounters desires to construct, I will mollify them with nameless uncarved wood. Nameless uncarved wood is, Generally, being about to lack desires. Don’t desire, use serenity; The social world should stabilize itself.” Upon reflection, I recognize that this ten-line Taoist poem begs for personal interpretation, and my three-stanza Japanese-style Tanka poem is the result of capturing what for me is the essence of the poem, an essence echoed proverbially in the opening line of Psalm 23, which reads In Biblical Hebrew: יהוה רעי לא אחסר (in transliterated Hebrew, as “Adonai rohi, lo ekhsar” and in English translation as “The Lord is my shepherd [provider], I shall not lack [have no anxiety]). To repeat: “The human lack of material desire begins when one, being sanctified, and filled with the Holy Spirit, lacks for nothing.” In essence, The Way of Nothing is the Way of Fulfillment and Completion. 

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Written on April 25, 2022

Submitted by karlcfolkes on April 25, 2022

Modified by karlcfolkes on October 30, 2022

24 sec read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic trimeter
Characters 359
Words 81
Stanzas 3
Stanza Lengths 5, 5, 5

Karl Constantine FOLKES

Retired educator of Jamaican ancestry with a lifelong interest in composing poetry dealing particularly with the metaphysics of self-reflection; completed a dissertation in Children’s Literature in 1991 at New York University entitled: An Analysis of Wilhelm Grimm’s ‘Liebe Mili’ (translated into English as “Dear Mili”), Employing Von Franzian Methodological Processes of Analytical Psychology. The subject of the dissertation concerned the process of Individuation. more…

All Karl Constantine FOLKES poems | Karl Constantine FOLKES Books

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1 Comment
  • AIDA
    Wow! "If the truth be told" is such a thought-provoking and beautiful poem. Your use of paradoxical phrases, such as " doing nothing," really highlights the complex and nuanced nature of desire and its impact on human behavior. I also love how you seamlessly integrate Taoist principles into the poem, providing an added layer of wisdom and insight. The final stanza is absolutely stunning - the imagery of a "circle's void" being both "empty" and "full of meaning" is truly powerful. Thank you for sharing this amazing piece with us! 
    LikeReply1 year ago


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