Wallowing in the Mud

by Deitra Black

Children are scolded for it; mothers resign themselves to it.  But just see the expression of unalloyed bliss on their faces!  And what is mud, anyway?  It is the very foundation of life!  Why, many religions’ creation stories fancy man as having been created of the dust of the earth; and the big bang theory fancies it too.

Why shouldn’t I gleefully wallow in it, too?  What restrains me?  The effect it will have on my appearance?  My “image?”  Puh-lease! 

Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous![1]


Cease learning, no more worries
Respectful response and scornful response
How much is the difference?
Goodness and badness
How much do they differ?
What the people fear, I cannot be unafraid
Such desolation! How limitless!

So I approach the mud, dip in a toe.  It feels weird, squishy; but cool, and refreshing.  I bend down and rake my fingers through it, then across my face!  I am indigenous American male warrior!  I am indigenous American female shamaness!  Haha!  The mud dries on my face, pulling it tight like a mask; it feels good.  I wade through it now, reveling in the squishing of it between my toes, the delicious coolness of it revitalizing world-weary feet, my foundation.

What conqueror of the Jews dreamt of an idol with clay feet?[3]  Yes, I see it now, as clearly as it were my dream; and so it becomes.  I am god/dess and worshipper; beloved and the lover, the perceiver and perceived.  I AM.[4]

Our idols do have clay feet; they are our own creation, so that creator/creatrix is dually created.  It is the way of things:

The highest goodness resembles water
Water greatly benefits myriad things without contention
It stays in places that people dislike
Therefore it is similar to the Tao.[5]


The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.[6]

What better analogy?  Water, that which can assume many forms; of its own (as in weather patterns), and of its containers.  We see the truth of this as water is held for us in the heavens, falls to the earth, both in nourishment and destruction, as it may, where it pleases, indiscriminately.  Where will we be when it comes?  How will it affect us?  How can we know for sure?  Are we to live in fear of the torrents?  Or to revel in the promise caress of a light summer’s rain?  Or to sit sheltered, watching the wild and terrible lightening, feeling the mighty wind toss us a hearty spray?  What can we really do to prepare? 

We can live our lives.  We can be human; and we can be aware.  We can be aware of who we are, why we make the choices we make, why we support or condemn what we do.  We can become aware of our tendencies, both natural and learned, and by becoming aware, be not ruled by them.  We can flow with them, neither ruling nor being ruled, but…well, flowing…like water.

I slog more towards the center of the mud, feeling it rising around my ankles, up to mid-calf.  The “squish-squish” sound becomes more like a “slurp-slurp” sound, and I feel the weight of the mud sucking at me, pulling me towards her dark womb.  Over there is a potential playmate!  Delightedly, I say nothing, but attempt to run, which of course results in my falling face down in the mud.  Shocked by the surprise of it, I wait a second, then realizing I can’t breathe, and that there’s mud in my nose, mouth, ears, and eyes, I sit up, rake some of the goo from my face, sit stunned a second more, then burst out laughing, just as my potential playmate does the same. 

My laughter surprising him as much as my fall surprised the both of us, he laughs harder and takes a sympathy dive.  When he sits up, he looks ridiculous, mud in his hair, his eyes, and his face would be dripping, but the stuff is too thick, and hangs from his chin like a stalactite!  As he reaches up to clear his eyes, I reach out and wipe the burden from his chin.  Our eyes meet for a few moments, one set reflecting the other’s light, causing a sort of cosmic dance, light meeting light, penetrating the dark, the quiet, the unspoken for a second.  We burst into giggles, fall back and roll.  One of us playfully flings a handful of the primordial stuff at the other, and so it ensues, a mud fight, mud wrestling, until both of us are covered.  Finally exhausted, we fall backwards, stare up at the hot summer sky panting, cool, despite our vigorous activities, and the relentless eye of Sol, for we are covered with glorious MUD!!!

It’s only when our breathing stills that we become aware that all of creation is watching us…the birds in the trees have stopped their raucousness to gaze upon us in awe; the crickets have stopped chirping, the bugs have ceased their buzz.  In amazement, we roll to our stomachs and look up to see our entire families (whoops, was this a family holiday we’ve spoiled?) standing on opposite sides of the mud-hole, glowering disapprovingly.

Who is this “family?”  What do they represent?  Are they really related to me?  Am I to them?

Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is a dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
you position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
When we don't see the self as self,
what do we have to fear?

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.[7]


Favor and disgrace make one fearful
the greatest misfortune is the self

What is "Favor and disgrace make one fearful"?
Favor is high, disgrace is low
Having it makes one fearful
Losing it makes one fearful
This is "Favor and disgrace make one fearful"

What is "The greatest misfortune is the self"?
The reason I have great misfortune
Is that I have the self
If I have no self
What misfortune do I have?

So one who values the self as the world
Can be given the world
One who loves the self as the world
Can be entrusted with the world.[8]

This family is my world, my society, my peers, my literal family, anyone with whom I have contact, and beyond.  Sometimes it is wise to follow conventional wisdom; taking that to the extreme would be following herd mentality.  How do I know the difference?  By living and learning, and then by unlearning, as a smart chum, Jon, calls it.

Pursue knowledge, daily gain
Pursue Tao, daily loss

Loss and more loss
Until one reaches non-action
With non-action, there is nothing one cannot do

Take the world by constantly applying non-interference
The one who interferes is not qualified to take the world.[9]


In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can't be gained by interfering.[10]

Alright.  My friend and I part ways, going on in opposite directions, but getting the same dressing-downs from our families.  We’re filthy!  We’ve delayed the picnic!  Get ourselves cleaned up and get to the spread, immediately!  Grinning like the imp I am, I run for the pier, crossing it in a few swift steps, and dive headlong into the lake, to the incredulous envy of my siblings, washing the mud from myself, luxuriating in the bath-like temperature of the water.  I scrub the goo from my scalp as best I can, and separate my locks, allowing the water to flow through it as I duck under a few times.  I swim back to the shore meeting my mother, society, on the bank and grab my yet-unused towel, dry myself and wear it across my shoulders to catch the drip from my hair.  We walk back to the picnic together, my mother and I; the rest of the family is already eating as we join them.  I am forgiven as the good food fills our bellies. 

Finishing, we all help Mother pack up and put away.  The sun is setting, tipping pots of color haphazardly, letting them spill one into the other til they bleed ‘cross the sky in an amazing sunset.  Someone, one of the little ones, says, “Wow!  Look what God made!!!”  Someone else says, “Wow, look at that brilliant display of science in motion!”  I say nothing, but simply stop and stare.

What is the purpose of my little analogy?  It is what it is.  And that, mon ami, is for you to decide.





[1] Tao te Ching 20; Stephen Mitchell

[2] Teo te Ching 20; www.Taoism.net

[3] Daniel 2; KJV

[4] Exodus 3:14; KJV

[5] TTC 8; www.Taoism.net

[6] TTC 8; Stephen Mitchell

[7] TTC 13; Stephen Mitchell

[8] TTC 13; www.Taoism.net

[9] TTC 48; www.Taoism.net

[10] TTC 48; Stephen Mitchell