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The March for Our Lives

This is now my fourth attempt at writing on the “March for Our Lives” rally in Washington DC. My first attempt got scrapped because I thought the tone was snarky. The second attempt got scrapped because I thought I was sounding patronizing. And the third attempt failed in its attempt to prove the old adage, the third time’s a charm, true. Snarkiness crept its way back in. And, I was dogged by this nagging doubt that anything I have to say is going to actually change anyone’s mind on the topic of gun control.

Interestingly, I didn’t feel that way when I was writing about abortion, last week. And while I don’t know if I changed anyone’s mind on that subject (I didn’t get enough feedback to make that determination) I was driven, while writing, by my own change of mind on the topic. Hey, if I can change my mind on something, then anyone can, right?

That is my theory, anyway. But, I have never changed my mind on the subject of guns. And that, I think, has been putting up hurdles for me, while I attempt to take a step back from all the hollering going on, on both sides, to write a rational blog post.

Is it better to just remain silent? I certainly have that right, for now.

That is why I initially remained silent after the Parkland shooting. Yet another shooting in a gun-free zone, where people aren’t supposed to bring in guns and start shooting the place up. I remained silent, while smelling something fishy about this particular shooting.

It was clear (to me, at least) that this wasn’t just another school shooting. The students mobilized much too quickly afterwards (the bodies were still warm). There wasn’t the usual lag time, which we should expect, owing to shock. While I don’t doubt we all deal with stress, and loss, in diverse ways, I can’t think of another example of this kind of immediate response. That it was choreographed, and probably weeks in advance, seemed likely.

No, I am not suggesting that I subscribe to some “conspiracy theory” about the shooting. It is just that I wish the narrative we are presented with, what we are told should pass for reality, didn’t make conspiracy theories seem quite so plausible.

And here I am with my fourth attempt to put down on “paper” what I am thinking in my own mind. With any luck, I will succeed after trying and trying, again and again.

Why am I trying to do this? Anyone who knows me, or is familiar with my blog posts, knows how offended I am by violence of all sorts. As I cycled through the verses of the Taoteching over and over again, Lao-tzu offered me myriad opportunities to talk about the virtue of non-aggression, and how abhorrent violence and the tools of violence (e.g. guns) are. Yet, Lao-tzu understood, and I understand, that in dire necessity the use of tools of violence can be justified – when we are forced, and as a last resort.

That is the whole purpose of the second amendment to the US Constitution. Our founders understood that the right of the people to keep and bear arms must not be infringed. It was a necessity, if they were to guarantee a free state.

Already, many of my potential readers have tuned out.

I read, just yesterday, that retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has said that the second amendment is antiquated, a relic of the 18th century, and should be tossed in the dust bin. And, I have heard, so many times, “No one needs an ‘assault’ weapon.” And, “How can anyone expect to stand up to the power of the government’s military prowess?” Try telling that to the “insurgents” which have been keeping our US military at bay for going on seventeen years in Afghanistan; and the people of many other sovereign countries who haven’t greeted us as liberators, much to the surprise of our country’s leaders. No, our founders understood that dire necessity would justify that the people keep and bear arms, just as people do in other countries, otherwise we won’t remain a free state.

The second amendment was never meant to be about hunting, or defending your property against thieves, or defending your school against lone gunmen, though those are certainly legitimate uses for guns. The second amendment, along with the other amendments which make up the so-called Bill of Rights, was written, and included, not to grant rights, but to restrict the government from infringing on our rights.

Many people don’t understand this today. Though it is vital to our freedom that we do understand it. It was the great fear of our founders that people would later misunderstand, and think this was a listing of our rights. What the founders were concerned with in agreeing to the Bill of Rights is that our natural rights would be protected from government encroachment.

We used to know and understand this. Amendments were added to the Constitution to protect the rights of the people. Amendments were added which banned slavery, which ensured voting rights, not just for a select few, but for all, regardless of the color of our skin, or our biological gender.

But our history has also witnessed amendments added which allowed the government to encroach more, rather than less. I am thinking of the amendment which allowed the income tax, and the amendment which banned alcohol consumption. At least we later came to our senses and added another amendment overturning prohibition. I am still waiting for the amendment which will overturn the 16th amendment.

The point I am trying to make is that amendments, especially in the Bill of Rights were designed to rein in government. Not to grant us a select number of rights. And the 9th and 10th amendments make clear, this isn’t an exhaustive list of our rights. They are only meant to restrain the government.

I am no Constitutional scholar; but I was required, back in high school, to pass a test on the Constitution, proving I had a basic understanding of it. They still require that, don’t they?

Getting back to the issue of guns, I am not going to start citing statistics to support my argument that guns prevent more violence than they inflict. That gun violence has actually gone down as the number of guns has proliferated. That the nations with the most guns have the lowest crime rates. I also won’t be citing statistics about the places in my own country that have the greatest degree of gun violence, the cities where guns are the most restricted. Nor will I cite statistics about the reality that gangs armed with illegal guns are the ones committing the most violence. I won’t cite the statistics because both sides have cherry-picked statistics where numbers have been manipulated to make their arguments appear valid. There is a reason Mark Twain railed against “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics!”

I hope that my first three attempts to write this blog post managed to get all the snarky and patronizing out of my system enough to write a thoughtful analysis of the situation. That you can agree or disagree with me, as you will. But any accusations that I was just throwing mud are self-evidently refuted.

I do want to address these students who, we are told, mobilized themselves to march to Washington “for their lives.” I listened to some of the speeches. And the students are right about a number of things. They are right that the adults have failed them. And they are right that enough is enough. But they are wrong when they blame guns.

It wasn’t the fault of guns. It was the fault of the young man who used the guns. And, it was a failure of law enforcement. I could respect these students, if their march on Washington was to complain that law enforcement failed them. That would be legitimate. Law enforcement did fail them, from the local level right on up to the FBI. Nothing short of gross incompetence was involved. And heads should roll because of it. That is what these students, marching for their lives, should be demanding.

I am in great distress, as I fear for my nation that common sense, and a clear reading and understanding of our Constitution are going to be relegated to the dust bin. And we won’t remain a free state.

Once again, I want to encourage my followers to give me feedback on this blog post. I certainly put plenty of effort into it. Let me know what you think. And, as always, have a great day!

Will We Tap Into This Power?

He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn’t know about the union
of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony.

The Master’s power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 55, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

The singing we were talking of yesterday is the perfect segue into today’s chapter on harmony with the Tao. You plant, you wait, you sing. First, it is only one voice. Perhaps, it is just you, singing melody. But as your genuineness shines through, your family picks up on it, and join with you, in singing. Then, it takes off from there, until the whole country, the whole universe, is singing. The melody is still strong, but what is most evident is the harmony.

Now, I don’t think I need to say that all of this singing is nothing more than a metaphor. It only serves to point at the harmony. When I am out in nature, I, both, see and hear the harmony in nature. All that remains is for me to be in harmony with it. But, in today’s chapter Lao Tzu doesn’t picture nature to represent a person in harmony with the Tao. He pictures a newborn child.

That newborn child is our metaphor for being in perfect harmony. Picture that newborn child. Its bones are soft, and its muscles are weak. But, just look at how powerful its grip is! Also, notice, even though this newborn child can’t possibly know anything about the union of male and female, its penis, still, can stand erect. Then, there is the sound. It can scream its head off all day, without ever becoming hoarse.

This is an illustration of the intensity of vital power available to all of us, when we are in complete harmony with the Tao.

So, how exactly do we translate this, power of a newborn child, to us? Lao Tzu certainly doesn’t expect us to reenter our mother’s womb, and be born again.

Lao Tzu explains it like this. It is the power to let all things come and go, effortlessly, and without desire. It is the power to never expect results; and, thus, never to be disappointed. It is the power of a spirit that never grows old.

Are you disappointed? Were you expecting something else? We have been talking, now, for several days, on the limits of our finite and temporal reality. The limits are such, we may find ourselves experiencing a premature death. But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

A spirit that never grows old is tapping into the infinite and eternal reality. There are no limits, here! I recently saw a video from an experiment done, I believe back in the 1930’s, on infants. In the video the infants were holding on to a bar, with that powerful grip they are notorious for, suspended off the ground. It isn’t that those infants had anything to prove. They are only being what they are, powerful. Effortlessly. Without desire. Not expecting anything. This is the spirit we all have innate within us. Will we tap into this power?

Planting, Waiting, And Singing

Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.

Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the Universe
and the Universe will sing.

How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 54, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Spring has arrived! At least, according to the calendar it has. The trees have been budding and blooming, and flowers are already plentiful in yards all around town. That has me thinking of planting my garden. But just because the calendar says it is Spring, and even though the trees and flowers are suggesting Spring has arrived, I still have a few weeks to go before I can get serious about planting. My tomato, pepper and squash plants will have to wait.

And speaking of planting…and waiting…

Lao Tzu uses an agrarian metaphor to talk further about staying centered in the Tao. This, as you will remember, is the only way to tap into the infinite and eternal reality. We tend to want to make this more difficult than it really is. We want to have to do something. Lao Tzu wants us to understand that it is effortless. You only need to let it happen. But, there is action required in that letting. It does take cultivation, practice. Lao Tzu’s promises us, if we are planted in the Tao, we will not be rooted up. Embracing the Tao will keep us from ever slipping away.

Lao Tzu talked, yesterday, about people preferring the side paths. That is why he told us to be aware when things are out of balance. The result, when things are out of balance, is always robbery and chaos, and not in keeping with the Tao. This has me thinking of how you and I can be a better example for other people. That is what being a leader is all about, being an example. I want to help people to see the benefit of getting off those side paths, and staying centered in the Tao. Their world could be a paradise! If only they could see. But, we can’t use force to make people do the right thing, can we? Of course, not! So, how can we be better examples?

It can be a challenge, when you first start to see the stark contrast between the way things are, and the way things seem to be. Lao Tzu has talked about being unconscious of the infinite and eternal reality. I want everyone to be conscious of it. But, I can’t use force.

Far from limiting me, when I forgo the use of force, that actually opens up an infinite number of ways to be a better example. Yes, people have become inured to the finite and temporal illusion. But it is, after all, an illusion. And, it is one, which is easily shattered. If I want others to see that the practice of the Tao is something innate in every living thing, I begin by demonstrating that reality, in me.

Let the Tao be present in your own life, then your genuineness will shine through. You being genuine is the first thick layer of the illusion’s facade melting away. Much as the last of the snow melts away to reveal the lush green grass beneath it. Our roles in the illusion, the finite and temporal reality, were falsehoods. We weren’t being real. We weren’t being our genuine selves. It is only in embracing the Tao, and being planted in it, that the Tao becomes so present in our lives, we become real, genuine. Counterfeits can easily deceive when you aren’t familiar with the real, the genuine. But, once people encounter the real, the genuine, you, no counterfeit will every suffice, again.

But, let’s be honest, here, this takes daily practice, cultivation. It requires very little effort to plant those tomato, pepper and squash plants, I will be planting in a few short weeks. But, I still need to plant them, if I am going to be able to have tomatoes, peppers and squash to share with my neighbors. But, before the neighbors, comes family. Your family will see the results of your genuineness first. Now, they are ready for you to let the Tao be present in your family. Then, your family will flourish. Another layer of the illusion’s facade melts away.

Next comes your neighbors, your friends, your community. You just keep reaching further and further out with your genuineness. More and more people become genuine. More and more families flourish. Soon, it is time to let the Tao be present in your country. And, your country become an example to all the countries in the world.

If you listen closely, you can already hear it. The Universe is already anticipating it. Let the Tao be present in the Universe, and the Universe will sing. How do I know this is true? I don’t know it with my mind. All my mind ever knows is what my senses are telling it, of the finite and temporal reality. But, when I look deeper within myself, then I see the infinite and eternal reality. And, I see how the unconscious becomes conscious. Not just in individuals, but in whole families, in communities, in countries, in the whole universe. What do you do when someone who you very much want to be conscious is unconscious? You plant, you wait, and you sing.

Life Can Still Be Without Limits

The great way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Tao.

When rich speculators prosper
while farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn –
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 53, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Everything we have been saying for the last few days has been leading to the conclusion to which Lao Tzu arrives, in today’s chapter. The great way is easy. Yet, people prefer the side paths.

The great way is easy, because every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. The practice of the Tao is intrinsic to our nature. It is innate within us. It is perfectly natural.

Yet, people prefer the side paths. Why is that? Lao Tzu has talked about this, before, too. The Tao is the infinite and eternal reality. But, this reality isn’t something we perceive with our senses. The reality we perceive with our senses is both finite and temporal. It could be properly defined as an illusion. But, it seems so real to us. Unfortunately, that limits us to a world with boundaries. It is finite and temporal, after all. Because we allow our minds to make us subject to those limits, we tend to live life to excess, and this leads, ultimately, to a premature death.

Life could be limitless! It could have no boundaries! And, no excess or deficiencies. This is the way of the Tao.

But, we are easily distracted by the illusion. We become inured to it. We forget the Tao. We lose our intuitive connection with it. Things get out of balance. There is both excess and deficiency.

What should be easy, natural, effortless, spontaneous, intuitive – becomes, in a word, hard.

This is why Lao Tzu warns us to beware when things are out of balance.

The only solution is to center ourselves, once again, in the Tao. And, remain centered.

If Lao Tzu warns us to beware, there must be warning signs, or symptoms, that things are out of balance. Here are three of them.

First Symptom: When rich speculators prosper, while farmers lose their land.

If things were in balance, everyone would be prospering. How many times has Lao Tzu said it before? If powerful men and women were centered in the Tao, and stayed centered, the whole world would be a paradise. When things are out of balance, a certain few may prosper, but all the rest will suffer from the imbalance. There is excess for some, and deficiency for others.

Second Symptom: When government officials spend money on weapons, instead of cures.

I want to be clear, here, about what I believe Lao Tzu is meaning, in contrasting weapons and cures. When he talks about cures, he isn’t talking about government health care, or government funding of cancer research, or AIDS research, or any other very worthy cause. Cures, here, is in contrast to weapons, for a reason. And, that reason is the government prefers spending money on weapons, to spending money on conflict resolution. They don’t want a cure! They thrive on conflict. There is money to be made in conflict. They delight in intervening and interfering in places where they have no business. Except they MAKE it their business. They prefer the use of force over a cure, because weapons are a better investment for them. So, instead of making friends, we make enemies. We treat our fellow human beings as if they were demons, rather than our brothers and sisters. This takes us further and further away from the cure, as things get further and further out of balance.

Third Symptom: When the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible, while the poor have nowhere to turn.

I want to be very careful, here, because this is the one where the proverbial excrement is getting ready to hit the fan. This is not intended as a personal indictment on the lifestyles of the rich and famous. How anyone spends the money, they have legitimately earned, is none of my business. Marie Antoinette is famously quoted as saying of the poor, “Let them eat cake.” I would say of the rich, “Let them eat cake.” I don’t care how extravagant and irresponsible they are. But, that doesn’t mean, I don’t care that the poor have nowhere to turn. My concern is actually grave. We live in desperate times for many. And, I don’t think our present pursuit, which only results in more and more people becoming desperate, and despondent, is going to end well. Marie Antoinette lost her head. When people despair, there is no telling what they may do. Our present presidential campaign, in the United States, highlights the anger and animosity the general populace is feeling toward the powerful elite. I don’t envy the powerful elite. Their days are surely numbered. But, that isn’t to say I think either of the current supposedly “anti-establishment” candidates are offering a “cure” to what ails us. I hear them talking about the use of force. They want to intervene and interfere. Haven’t we been doing that since the so-called “War on Poverty” was launched by Lyndon B. Johnson back in the 60’s? After all the money which has been extracted from the “haves” and redistributed to the “have-nots”, you would think the poor wouldn’t still have nowhere to turn. But, to date, this war on poverty has only resulted in making more of us poor.

All of this is robbery and chaos. It is not in keeping with the Tao. But, that is where preferring the side paths gets us. Things are way out of balance. There is excess; and there is deficiency. The solution isn’t more of the same. Declaring the war on poverty was just underfunded, makes no more sense than saying we need to spend even more money on weapons.

That is not the cure!

There is only one cure. But, it requires staying off those side paths. Center ourselves in the Tao. And, stay centered.

The great way is easy!

We may have forgotten the Tao. We may have lost our intuitive connection with the Tao. We may be inured to the illusion. But, we can still remember. We can regain our lost connection. We can, once again, see beyond the illusion, to the infinite and eternal reality.

Life can still be without limits.

No Limits Really Means No Limits

In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.

To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free of sorrow.

If you close your mind in judgments
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren’t led by the senses,
your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 52, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

I get that I am in the minority. Lao Tzu suggested that the number of people, who will actually practice the Tao, is only one in ten. Nine out of ten people will find for themselves a premature death, because they live to excess. They constantly test the limits of the finite and temporal “reality” we experience in our world. They focus, too much, on extending their life, or fearing death, or living life to its fullest. But, I want to be numbered in the one in ten. And, I suspect a whole lot of my followers do, as well. Lao Tzu keeps talking about the infinite and eternal reality. The reality we don’t perceive with our senses. The one where there are no limits, and, thus, no such thing as excess.

How do we do what Lao Tzu, today, calls practicing eternity?

Lao Tzu explains it this way. If you want to practice eternity, you need to start at the very beginning. In the beginning was the Tao. The Tao is the infinite and eternal reality. It is the Way things are; and, it is very different from the way things appear to be, the finite and temporal illusion we find ourselves trapped within. We want to be free; like Lao Tzu was talking about, in yesterday’s chapter.

If we were paying attention, yesterday, Lao Tzu said, every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. And, all of us, from the moment we spring into existence are already perfect and free. We may be unconscious of this reality. But that doesn’t change the reality. It is only a matter of taking on a physical body (check); and letting circumstances complete us. I said, yesterday, we may think we aren’t letting circumstances complete us. That, is what is holding us back. After all, how often do we resist? Do we fight tooth and nail against our circumstances? Do we insist on swimming against the current of the Tao, instead of going with the flow? But, I also insisted yesterday, there is no wrong way to be an expression of the Tao. Even our resisting, serves to complete us. We let circumstances complete us, even if we are not consciously letting circumstances complete us. Why? Because we are all an expression of the Tao. Every being in the universe can’t help but spontaneously honor the Tao.

I do hope you get just how good of news that last paragraph really is. Realize, we aren’t limited to the finite and temporal any longer. Now, we have entered the realm of the infinite and eternal. You can’t limit yourself. There are no limits. It isn’t up to you to do the right thing. Circumstances are going to complete you, no matter what. Because, there are no limits.

With that said, we do, still, resist. That is one reason Lao Tzu conjectures nine out of ten people experience a premature death. Just because circumstances are still going to complete us, even if we resist, doesn’t mean we want to keep on resisting.

We want to stop resisting. So, let’s go back to the beginning again, to the Tao we are all an expression of. All things issue from it. All things return to it. If we want to find the origin, all we need to do is trace back the manifestations. When I said we were going back to the beginning, I wasn’t kidding. This takes us all the way back to chapter one, where we discovered our desires keep us from realizing the mystery.

You remember, back in the beginning, Lao Tzu told us, even though we are caught in desire, we can still see the manifestations. And, both the manifestations and the mystery arise from the same Source. Now, we are beginning to get somewhere. There are really no limits on us, even the limits resulting from being caught in desire, for we still have a way out of the prison (illusion) of our desires.

When you recognize the children, you will find the mother, and you will be free of sorrow.

So, who are the children? We are. We all are. Lao Tzu made that clear, yesterday, when he said, every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. We are the Tao expressing itself in the universe. We are all children of the Tao.

Now, you see how important what Lao Tzu was saying, yesterday, about the love of the Tao, really is. That innate nature we all have to love, and to be loved. Unconditionally. Spontaneously. Effortlessly.

So, don’t close your minds in judgment of your fellow beings. That is completely unnatural. It is in your nature to love, and to be loved.

And, don’t traffic with desires. This is why your heart is so troubled.

If you keep your mind from judging and aren’t led by the senses, you heart will find peace.

Back in chapter one, Lao Tzu said, the Source is called darkness – darkness within darkness. But, if you want clarity, you need to see into that darkness. What happens when you walk into a darkened room? You slow down. You yield. You wait for your “eyes” to get adjusted to the dark. Knowing how to yield is strength.

To return to the source of light, you must use your own light. You may think you don’t have any light. All around you is darkness. But, you are an expression of the Tao. You do have your own light. It just takes practice. Don’t beat yourself up over not getting it right the very first time. Or, the tenth. Or, the hundredth. Or, the thousandth. Why put limits on yourself? Every day you practice a little more. Circumstances will complete you. Let them.

This is practicing eternity.

No Limits Means No Excess

Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors the Tao.

The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao
is in the very nature of things.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 51, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

What happens when we stop limiting ourselves? This is the thing about realizing the infinite and eternal reality beyond the finite and temporal one we let limit us. We talked about it yesterday. Nine out of ten people limit themselves to the finite and temporal reality by focusing, to excess, on those limitations. Even with those who focus on living life to the fullest, it is, still, all about limitations. That is why there is excess. When you are focused on your limits, excess results. You will find yourself experiencing a premature death, because you aren’t ready for death; indeed, you never can be.

The infinite and eternal reality has none of those limitations. That is why, here, there is always balance. There is ebb and flow, yes. But, you adjust to it. There is no excess. And, no deficiencies.

Lao Tzu describes it in today’s chapter.

Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. Do you understand what Lao Tzu is saying, here? You, and me, all of us, along with every living thing, is the Tao expressing itself in our universe.

We all spring into existence, unconscious of who and what we really are. Still, we are perfect, in every way imaginable. And, we are free to be the expression of the Tao we were created to be. This is so important for us to realize. There is no wrong way to be an expression of the Tao. You are free! There are no limits to your freedom. Just be!

We all take on a physical body, and let circumstances complete us. Some of you may be thinking that you fight tooth and nail against your circumstances, all of the time. Are you letting circumstances complete you? Actually, yes, you are. Even, with all of the fighting, and all of the resisting. That is all part of the completing process. Like I said, before, there is no wrong way to be an expression of the Tao. This is how every being in the universe spontaneously honors the Tao.

Understand this. The Tao gives birth to all beings. It nourishes us. It maintains us. It cares for us. It comforts us. It protects us. And, it takes us back to itself.

We were talking about the life cycle, yesterday. Of birth, growth, maturity, death, decay, and rebirth. The Tao is there with us, every step of the way. It flows through all things, inside and outside, and returns to the Source. That is where the process always begins again.

It creates without possessing. We are truly free!

It acts without expectation. Expectations are what limit us.

It guides without interfering. Showing us the way, without forcing us to go a particular way. It nudges us, ever so gently. Go this way, you will suffer so much less if you do. But, which ever way you go, you will be completed.

This is what love is. The love of the Tao. It is in the very nature of things. It is intrinsic. We all have that love inside of us. It doesn’t require effort to love. It doesn’t have to be forced. It is unconditional. It is spontaneous. It is our nature to love, and to be loved. It simply flows through us, welling up on the inside, and then flowing out of the core of our being. We are all an expression of the love of the Tao. And, where there are no limits to love, there is no such thing as excess.

When You Stop Limiting Yourself

The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 50, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

We have been talking about the practice of the Tao. This involves both knowing without knowing, and doing without doing. Lao Tzu has told us, we will know we have arrived, when we arrive at “non-action” and “no mind”, having daily dropped a little something of our need to force things.

Finally, you give yourself up to whatever the moment brings.

You have nothing left to hold on to. Even your own mortality no longer has a hold on you. All the illusions in your mind have vanished. All the resistances in your body have melted away.

You no longer have to think about your actions. They just flow, naturally, from the core of your being – effortlessly, spontaneously, intuitively.

You hold nothing back from living in this present moment, because whatever this present moment brings, you are ready.

Even if it means death.

Just like a person is ready for sleep, after a good day of work.

Well, now, doesn’t that sound sweet? The only problem is that we haven’t arrived. We still fear death. Why? Because we aren’t ready. We still resist it. We still entertain illusions in our mind that we can somehow extend our life.

Other translations of this chapter talk about the three in ten people who focus too much on extending their life. And, the three in ten people who focus too much on fearing death. And, the three in ten people who focus on living life to the fullest.

We may think to ourselves, hey, that three in ten who focus on living life to the fullest can’t be too far off the mark, can they? Isn’t that what our focus should be on? Eat, drink, and be merry, tomorrow you are going to die! But, Lao Tzu, of course, isn’t teaching anything of the sort.

Each of these three in tens, which when I was in school, added up to nine out of ten, only find themselves experiencing a premature death. None of them were ready. Why? Because such people live to excess.

Then, there is the one in ten people. They understand the key to living life in the present moment is not living to excess. Always remaining in balance. Going with life’s ebb and flow. It is the only way to be ready for death.

You see, when you are in tune with life’s ebb and flow, you realize, death is not the final thing we have been conditioned to believe it is. That is one of those illusions we need to let go of.

We see it all around us. Birth, growth, maturity, death, decay, and rebirth. The cycle recurs again and again and again. When I last posted on this chapter, it was just after the Winter Solstice. Now, the trees are budding, the flowers are blooming. That is the way things are. That is the infinite and eternal reality. It is time to stop limiting ourselves to the finite and temporal.

Treating Them Like Your Own Children

The Master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people.

She is good to people who are good.
She is also good to people who aren’t good.
This is true goodness.

She trusts people who are trustworthy.
She also trusts people who aren’t trustworthy.
This is true trust.

The Master’s mind is like space.
People don’t understand her.
They look to her and wait.
She treats them like her own children.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 49, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday I said, “This is when we will have arrived.” Nothing is done, and nothing is left undone. Today, Lao Tzu calls it “having no mind”. Now, we really are beginning to see how the practice of doing without doing and knowing without knowing are interwoven in this practice of the Tao. We are overcoming the one problem Lao Tzu has said we have had from the very beginning. The problem of our desires.

It is our desires which keep us from realizing the mystery, the infinite and eternal, way things are. How? Because, as long as we are caught in desires, the desire to be in control, the desire to use force, the desire to interfere with the natural order, we will always and only be able to see the finite and temporal reality before us.

Knowing and mastering ourselves is the goal. By letting go of something of our desire to interfere, to force, to control, each day, little by little, we gain mastery over ourselves. We become the Master.

You will know you have arrived when you no longer have a mind of your own. In other words, no will of your own. You are going to live each and every day letting things go their own way, without interfering. You simply shape events as they come.

Understanding that events will still need to be shaped, means understanding there is always something to do. But this is doing without doing. It is effortless action on your part. You have learned how to go with the flow of the Tao. Swimming with the current of a stream is effortless, when compared with always trying to swim against the current. That wears you out, fast.

Because the Master has no mind of their own, they can work with the mind of the people. Because you have mastered yourself, now you can be an example to others of how to master themselves.

How does the Master demonstrate true goodness? By being good, not only to those who are good, but to those who aren’t good. How does the Master demonstrate true trust? By trusting, not just those who are trustworthy, but also those who are not trustworthy.

The practice of the Tao is the highest form of virtue. This is why this book, we have been taking chapter by chapter, is called the Tao Te Ching. The Te means virtue. It is the Way of Virtue book. The more you practice the Tao, the more virtuous you become.

We have already talked, before, of the kind of reception the practice of the Tao gets from various people. The wise immediately begin to embody it. The average only half believe it, while half doubting it. And the fool? Well, fools laugh out loud.

In my experience, there are always plenty of fools, who will laugh out loud, when they see the Master being good to those who aren’t good, and trusting those who can’t be trusted. But, it wouldn’t be the Tao, if they didn’t laugh.

Lao Tzu has, also, already explained our roles as either master or apprentice. Not everyone is good. They need mentoring from a master. The Master is always ready and available, to all.

When you have arrived at no mind, your mind is like space, completely empty of all desires. People won’t understand you. But, they will look to you. And, they will wait. This is where you will treat them like your own children.

I didn’t say the Master treats people like children. Adults don’t like being treated like children. But this isn’t what you will be doing. It is a nurturing relationship, like a mother with her children. My adult children have a special place of honor in my heart. They are adults, yes; and, I treat them as the adults they are. But they are my children. My children. That is a special status. For the Master, that special status is available to all.

I wasn’t always the best a father should be for his children. How I wish I could say it was otherwise. But, it was what it was. I had my moments. And, perhaps your own parents weren’t always the best they should have been, either. But, let’s just put out of our minds the finite and temporal examples of parenthood. When it comes to someone who is embodying the Tao, and therefore tapping into the infinite and eternal, we can expect only the best in nurturing from the Master.

Why Not, Leave It Alone

In the 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.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 48, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

We have been talking about the two very different realities. There is the one we are all aware of, which is finite and temporal. This is the one we perceive as external to us. We perceive it with our senses; and our minds tell us, this is reality. This is the way things seem to be. But, Lao Tzu teaches us, this reality is an illusion compared to the infinite and eternal reality we can’t perceive with our senses. To our minds, this reality doesn’t exist. Yet, this is the way things actually are. What thwarts our ability to understand this reality is what we think we know.

This is why Lao Tzu was teaching, in yesterday’s chapter, about the two very different kinds of knowing. There is the external knowledge, which deals with the finite and temporal reality, which Lao Tzu has already told us is an illusion. This knowledge has to be accumulated. In the pursuit of this knowledge, every day something has to be added. The problem with this “so-called” knowledge is that the more we think we know, the less we understand. In other words, adding to our storehouse of this knowledge doesn’t help us to understand the eternal reality. We need to practice knowing without knowing, which is the second kind of knowing. This knowledge doesn’t rely on what we think we know, or accumulating even more knowledge. It is a knowledge which knows without knowing. It is intuitive and spontaneous. Hence, unscientific. And, thus, largely discounted by those who think they know better.

So, what is this knowing without knowing? It boils down to this: the more you know you don’t know, the more you don’t know you know. We, humans, are a pretty conceited lot. We are so sure we know. And, we can’t stand ever having to acknowledge we don’t know. But knowing we don’t know is the key to understanding. As Lao Tzu said, in yesterday’s chapter, we understand less and less, the more we think we know.

So, how do we come to this humble position of knowing we don’t know?

This involves what Lao Tzu calls, in today’s chapter, “the practice of the Tao”. So, what is the practice of the Tao? Though we haven’t called it that before, we have talked about this throughout the Tao Te Ching. It is the practice of doing without doing. Just like there are two very different kinds of knowing, there are two very different kinds of doing. There is the doing which requires effort, and the doing which doesn’t require any doing.

Yesterday, Lao Tzu said, the Master arrives without leaving, sees the light without looking, and achieves without doing a thing. This is when your practice of the Tao, or doing without doing, has reached its end.

But, Lao Tzu doesn’t expect us to reach this level of understanding in one giant leap. No, it takes practice, daily practice, just like the pursuit of knowledge requires daily practice. Every day, something is dropped. Wait a minute. What is the “something” we are dropping, here, every day?

Lao Tzu tells us. And, this is essential for us to understand. We have been so busy adding to our knowledge, and trusting in, and relying on, our vast accumulation of knowledge, that we have so inflated our egos as to think we can “solve” any problem we perceive in our world via the use of force – through interfering, manipulating, and coercing. It is that ingrained habit which we must let go. Every day, less and less, do we need to force things; until, finally, we arrive at non-action. This is when we will have arrived. Just like the Tao does nothing, yet through it all things are done, the Master does nothing, yet leaves nothing undone.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. Oh, I hear the scoffing. Those who scoff, just don’t get it. Not yet, anyway. Their egos are too inflated. They think they know, too much. But, true mastery can’t be gained by interfering. It can only be gained by letting things go their own way.

This is why, when someone proposes a solution to some problem they are perceiving, I will always tell them, why don’t we just leave it alone, instead. I seem not to care about the problem. But that is only the way things seem to be. The way things are is very different. I actually care more about the law of unintended consequences. Let nature bring about the balance needed. The way some people fuss and fume about not wanting to leave things alone, and let them go their own way, it is almost like they have some vested interest in maintaining the imbalances. Hmmmmmmmm.

Why It Is That The More We Know, The Less We Understand

Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.

The more you know,
the less you understand.

The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 47, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

This morning, I was scrolling down my Tumblr dashboard, and came across an E. E. Cummings quote which is very relevant to today’s chapter in the Tao Te Ching. “..we are all inundated with information and given no time to WONDER what it means or where it came from. Access without understanding and facts without context have become our daily diet.”

In today’s chapter, Lao Tzu talks about two very different kinds of knowledge. Previously, we have talked about the two very different realities, and the two very different kinds of doing.

What are the two very different kinds of knowledge? There is the one which is external, and the one which is internal.

The one which is external, deals with the finite and temporal reality we perceive in the world around us. This kind of knowledge has to be accumulated. We have to open our doors, and look out our windows. We can also pull out our smart phones and “google” just about anything we want to “know” about the finite and temporal existence, most of us conclude, is the only reality. It is this kind of knowledge, E.E. Cummings seems to be talking about. The more of this knowledge we have, the less we understand.

Then, there is the kind of knowledge which is internal. You don’t have to open your door to open your heart to the world. You don’t have to look out your window to see the essence of the Tao. This is knowing without knowing, a central tenet of philosophical Taoism. It is a knowing which doesn’t require accumulation. Accumulating external knowledge actually goes counter to internal knowledge, which is intuitive and spontaneous.

Here is the problem. We tend to get these two very different kinds of knowledge mixed up in the phrase “knowing without knowing”. The external accumulation of knowledge, as E.E. Cummings points out, doesn’t end up advancing true knowledge. A whole lot of people, who have accumulated vast amounts of knowledge, are guilty of knowing without knowing. They only think they know. But, the more they think they know, the less they understand.

But, let’s not confuse this “knowing without knowing” with the practice of knowing without knowing which Lao Tzu is advocating. The practice of knowing without knowing values what we know intuitively over what we think we know, based on our vast accumulation of knowledge.

This will be rejected as “unscientific” by the powers that be, who will scoff. But, I will remind all my readers, it is these very people, with their own knowing without knowing, who have gotten us in the mess we are in, in our world.

Don’t be like them. Be like the Master, who arrives without leaving, sees the light without looking, and achieves without doing a thing.

In tomorrow’s chapter, we will discuss further how the practice of knowing without knowing relates to the practice of doing without doing. Then, we can start to see how the Master can achieve without doing a thing.