If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve.
Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools.
Chances are that you’ll cut your hand.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 74, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, I took comfort in trusting that the Tao’s net covers the whole Universe and won’t let a thing slip through. This comfort enables me to live a life of ease, right here and now; instead of postponing it until some future unknown. Today, Lao Tzu continues with instructions on how to live at ease in the present. If we want to be at ease in our own lives, we must realize that all things do change; and, hold onto nothing. We don’t know what the future is going to bring, besides change. Of that we can be certain. But what will change? Perhaps everything. I expect nothing will remain the same. Everything will change. I can’t control the future. Try as I might, I can’t do it.
Trying to hold on to things is trying to prevent change. You can say that you know that all things change, but until that “knowledge” is actually making a difference in how you are living your life right here, right now, your knowledge means nothing. That is why, I think, we must do more than know. We must realize. Realizing makes it real. Knowledge alone, doesn’t improve us. Realizing is the key to actually understanding. Knowledge alone doesn’t prevent us from struggling against change. Even knowing that all things change, we still are nagged by the twin phantoms of hope and fear. They challenge us to think about our future. Then we try to control the future.
But realizing, reveals hope and fear to be the phantoms they are. By realizing, we see that they aren’t what is real. What is real is the here and the now. Change is always upon us. Hoping that things are always going to be just so, or fearing dying – these rob us of a present life of ease. There is nothing we can’t achieve if we aren’t sidetracked by these phantoms.
And it simply isn’t our place to try and control the future. The Tao has us all covered in its net. We want to think we are the ones in control. But there are so many things that are completely out of our control. Think about that, right now. So many things are completely out of your control. Why should that produce fear and anxiety? The Tao’s net has you covered. It has always had you covered. In spite of all the things you can’t control, you have made it thus far. And you will continue to make it; because the Tao has you covered. It has your back. So stop worrying about things beyond your control; and, start living your life like you believe it. Don’t try to handle the master carpenter’s tools. Allow things to change. Allow things to both come and go. Enjoy this present moment.