Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 76, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Today, once again, Lao Tzu reminds us of what we think we already know. Remember where you came from. When you were born, you were soft and supple. Alive. So it is with all things. Even plants start out this way, tender and pliant. We know these physical attributes. We know how soft a newborn is. We know how tender the shoots of a plant are.
But, if we only know the physical attributes, it is like only paying attention to the flower, without concerning ourselves with the fruit. We need to get past the surface and start plumbing the depths. Lao Tzu isn’t talking about tangible properties. He is talking about the intangible qualities that make us alive. We need to realize what we think we already know. Then, is when it makes a difference in our lives. Then, we can know true contentment.
How sad it is that so many of us are no longer soft and supple, yielding to the flow of the Tao. It is the only way to truly be alive. When we are stiff and hard, inflexible, then we are as good as dead. A tree that is become brittle and dry is fit for the ax.
The Tao is always flowing, alive. Let it. Go with that flow. Bend and yield. Be alive. If you resist, if you are hard and stiff, you will be broken. Only those who remain soft and supple will prevail.