Accepting cancer’s challenges, with a little help from Tao Te Ching

“Now, to forsake compassion for courage, to forsake frugality for expansion, to forsake the rear for the lead, is sure to end in death.”
Yes. What should I be aiming for? The last time I can recall running into such an unexpected personal wall was mostly psychological. Still haven’t since my 62nd birthday in January. Which means I’m looking for the medical equivalent of crutches, drugs that will boost my energy. So far, there’s no particular evidence that the tumor has started to come back yet. And more than 40 long years ago. But I liked what I took away as the broad structure:
The word “Tao” is generally translated as “the Way.” Reality is tied universally and maybe even supernaturally to a moral and ethical flow. I’d had almost none of that then. Boy, howdy, I’ve been tired. What guidance might it offer to me now? Odds are it’s a bit early for that. (Jeffrey Weiss writes the RNS column “My Way to the Egress”)  But a focus on what kind of ambition makes sense might get me a legacy that doesn’t simply end when I will. And a quiet thought. But the first version I read remains my favorite. I will do some things as I can. Loss of the ability to speak. And finally:
“In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day; in the pursuit of the way one does less every day. I won’t say Lao Tzu led me to a quick success, but he got me moving better than I had been for a while. Maybe more, maybe less. The writing may actually be “only” 1,600 years old. Here’s the very start that hooked me forever:
“The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way; the name that can be named is not the constant name.”
Meaning that any attempt to be totally specific about the transcendent Way will leave some of it out. Only competition leads to a loss. And I’ve chosen an interesting set of treatments that may push my survival up some. I’m mortal for sure. And lack of appetite is making it hard for me to maintain weight and strength, as well. If I tried to figure out how to ride generally with the flow – even like a surfboard on a tsunami – maybe I’d be able to get to places I wanted to go better than if I fought against the flow? And one acquaintance gave me a copy of a spiritual book I’d never heard of: The Penguin Classic edition of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Many cases have people headed for the Egress on a fairly smooth path – until very near their end. I’ve always liked naps. I went looking for some quotes. But my doc, an expert on this cancer, tells me that a high fatigue can be my new normal. Which seemed ancient to me in 1974. But I’ve had days where naps lasted a lot longer than awake time. One does less and less until one does nothing at all, and when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone.”
So a deep breath. But they aren’t exactly what I expected. (My fault, to be sure.)

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
My brain was damned near on hold. Glioblastoma, aka GBM, is a disease with a median survival of about 15 months. (RNS) About five months into brain cancer, I’m running into new limits. And I’ve never lost my affection for the work. Until there is nothing that is undone. And even a nap. What will make me feel better or feel like I’m meeting a higher standard? I learned about that early when I researched the illness. I’m not complaining about being weary after being up for a while. The original was credited to an older contemporary of Confucius from about 2,400 years ago. “It is because he does not contend that no one in the empire is in a position to contend with him.”
I truly remember that! I figured immediately I’d come up with my bucket list of what I’d want to do while I can. (Mr. I’ve collected a series of translations and analyses over the years. Or two. Or see. Trump: This may be worth a read.) And I disagreed with plenty of it. And I’m also trying to figure out what level of ambition makes any sense at all. My current odds push my prognosis up to as much as 20 months. Or walk. However, I’ve run into some physical walls in the past few weeks. OK, then. But physical challenges surely could have been worse for me at that point. Taoism (pronounced Dow-ism) has nothing much to do with romance but is a metaphilosophy about how to deal with all human problems, including governance. I was a college kid whose first-ever irredeemable romance had been squashed like a messy bug. Which is also not uncommon for GBM. The translation I got had been first published in 1963. Paralysis. Worth a try. The list of relatively common symptoms to this relatively uncommon cancer includes a variety of losses of basic mental skills and power. So I’m looking for some meta-advice about how I should react. Thinking about my path to the Egress became a psychological “new normal” pretty much the day after my brain surgery in December. That’s worth me grabbing back onto. I won’t lose simply because someone else thinks I’m losing. Seizures. And each of us can choose whether or not to compete.