When the great Tao is forgotten,
goodness and piety appear.
When the body’s intelligence declines,
cleverness and knowledge step forth.
When there is no peace in the family,
filial piety begins.
When the country falls into chaos,
patriotism is born.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 18, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Because We Aren’t Trusted
Yesterday’s chapter, where I wished for a wise and virtuous leader to govern us, when all the powers that be offer us is just more of the same thing which got us into the mess we are in, is best followed up with a portrayal of the downward spiral we have found ourselves in.
Remember, two chapters ago, when Lao Tzu told us how to take charge of our own lives. Empty your own mind of all thoughts, let your own heart be at peace. Watch the turmoil of beings, but contemplate their return to the Source, it is where we come from.
Today, we are going to observe the turmoil. But, let’s be careful not to waste any time contemplating the turmoil. We need to observe it, but trust our inner vision. Today’s chapter is bleak. But we can endure this. Today, we will dare to look at it, in all of its ugliness. We will look at it, and we won’t look away.
How did we get into this mess?
It is because the great Tao has been forgotten. We have forgotten where we come from. We have forgotten our common Source. The results have been devastating.
The signs are deceptively subtle. Goodness and piety appear. That doesn’t seem so bad. But, watch out! This isn’t a goodness and piety which arises naturally, because we realize where we come from. It is a forced goodness and piety, contrived to take the place of the Tao.
In individuals, it is evidenced in the body’s intelligence declining. What Lao Tzu means by body’s intelligence is our body’s natural, intuitive and spontaneous, effortless knowing of how to act in our world. Because the great Tao has been forgotten, our body’s natural ability to go with the flow of the Tao is affected. In its place, cleverness and knowledge fill the vacuum created. The problem, here, is two-fold. First, we aren’t nearly as clever and knowledgeable as we think we are. Second, we are too clever and knowledgeable for our own good. We are relying on the wrong things, here. We presume we know what we do not know. And, that just gets us into more and more trouble. The downward spiral, away from the Tao, greatly takes its toll on us. Presuming to know is a disease. There is only one cure. We need to heal ourselves of all knowing. We need to practice knowing without knowing. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, self-diagnosing a cure, let’s continue to look on, with horror, at how the downward spiral spreads from individuals to families.
In families, because the great Tao has been forgotten, the evidence is no peace in the family. We don’t have to look too hard to find the evidence of this all around us. Why all the talk about family values? What are these family values? Filial piety hearkens back to that goodness and piety Lao Tzu spoke of earlier. It refers to the duties required of family members to each other. But, remember, these aren’t arising naturally, going with the flow of the Tao. They are forced, contrived. Fathers and mothers have responsibilities to fulfill for their families. Children have responsibilities to their parents. Husbands and wives have responsibilities to each other. And, self-appointed advocates have been bemoaning the breakdown of families for what seems like forever now. And, they have just the cure. Or, at least they presume to have the cure. No one is trusted to do these things naturally. They must be forced and contrived. I said, yesterday, that it is amazing the things we can do all by ourselves, if only we trust ourselves. This lack of trust is destroying us. We have one last thing to observe before we move on to the cure, in tomorrow’s chapter. Don’t avert your eyes, just yet.
Families, the tired cliché insists, are the backbone of a country. So, is it any wonder that, when families are in crisis, it spreads until the whole country falls into chaos? This is why we have political conventions where a three-ring circus attempts to showcase all that is wrong with the country, and how they plan to make America great again. They talk about family values, good solid American values, like we had in days of yore. And, the other side is quick to pounce with their claims of plagiarism, when speeches are made talking about these values we have heard endlessly repeated for generations, now. I hate to break it to the various parties’ faithful. Neither of you has any claim to ownership of these family values you keep harping on and on about. And, anyway, you are still going to get your opportunity to have your own three-ring circus. But, the real evidence of a country fallen, or rather, mired, in disarray is the birth of patriotism. And, of course, patriotism wouldn’t be patriotism without one brand of patriotism trying to insist that they are the only true patriots. How is it Lao Tzu described the scene, again? Chaos.
I am constantly hearing about why I should be afraid of anarchy. It would be chaos! I am told I should fear it. But, quite frankly, as bad and chaotic as things are with these loonies in charge, I would think we would welcome a change. And, for those who say things could be a whole lot worse, I know. And, I think things are going to get a whole lot worse. But, only because the powers that be are orchestrating it. The change I am looking for isn’t going to be any top-down change. We need to learn how to trust ourselves, again. Then, we wouldn’t fear anarchy. I will still insist that we need to be the leaders we want to have. The powers that be are never going to be.
Well, that is enough observing the turmoil. Tomorrow, Lao Tzu will tell us exactly what needs to be done by us individuals.