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Like other troublesome words in the English language, “value” can drive a novice grammarian crazy—is value a noun, as in something of value, or is it a verb, as in to value something? Of course it’s both, right? It depends on how it is used. And how we use words like value can, as Shakespeare noted, be much mightier than the sword.

For instance, I value my collection of gently-loved, previously owned cookbooks because they contain the energy of all those who loved them first, not to mention the marginal notes and tips of culinary wisdom they offer—sort of value added for me.

But sometimes I think what we value is driven not by what we love but by what we are told to fear. That Stock Market...that Dow Jones Average we hear about every day: we are told if it is going up our lives are good and if it is going down our lives are bad. Really?

If we hear these fears and speculations and bring them into our being as our reality, our decisions on how to live and what to value become outer-driven rather than heart-smart. The Stock Market tracks the fears and speculations of large corporations and billionaires, not us. It follows the fear-based investments of the globally powerful, mostly in fossil fuels and agricultural commodities—and we become afraid (as we are told to do) if these stocks fall—we start screaming for relief at the pump (and subsidies for coal and gas companies) and cheaper food in the stores (and subsidies for corporate ag and CAFOs). What we value is maybe not what we love.

In the 67th verse of the Tao Te Ching, Lau-tzu talks of the Three Treasures as values to live by:

I have three treasures, which I hold fast

And watch closely.

The first is mercy.

The second is frugality.

The third is humility.

From mercy comes courage.

From frugality comes generosity.

From humility comes leadership.

Many use the Tao to find their way—The Way—to a new reality, a new scale of values, a new way of seeing value in what truly matters to them.

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