When Lords Flit About Like Fools

The heavy is the root of the light.
The unmoved is the source of all movement.

Thus the Master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views,
she stays serenely in herself.

Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 26, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, Lao Tzu identified humans as one of the four great powers. What makes humans great is that we follow the Earth, as it follows the Universe, as it follows the Tao. Our greatness depends on our relationship with the Earth. In an earlier chapter, Lao Tzu told us that in dwelling we need to live close to the ground. What he was saying is that we need to maintain a close connection with the Earth. Our greatness is tempered by our respect for the Earth. In order to be great, we need to always be picking up on its natural rhythms and follow them. The Earth isn’t ours to exploit. We are subordinate to it. We depend on the Earth’s richness and goodness for our very survival. Sadly, I think we have largely forgotten that.

Today, Lao Tzu continues this theme of our relationship with the Earth and our greatness as lords of the country. What is a fitting way for lords to behave? And what is not? Once again, he falls back on yin and yang to show us how to be.

The complementary relationship of yin and yang is something we have been talking about since chapter two. Yin and yang create each other, they support each other, they define each other, they depend on each other, they follow each other. There is that word, follow, again.

We need to understand how yin and yang follow each other in order to achieve balance and harmony. That is how we will have balance and harmony in our own lives. The yin and yang in today’s chapter is heavy and light, the unmoved and all movement. The heavy is the root of the light. The unmoved is the source of all movement. We want to never lose touch with our root. And we want to make sure that all our movement has, as its source, the unmoved.

To show us how to do this, Lao Tzu offers us the example of the Master. She can travel all day without leaving home. How does she do this? However splendid the views, she stays serenely in herself. She never loses touch with her root. It is her anchor. The views maybe splendid, but she always remain serene.

She doesn’t flit about like a fool. When you allow yourself to be blown to and fro, you lose touch with your root. When you allow restlessness to be your source of movement, rather than the unmoved, you lose touch with who you are.

And that is very foolish, indeed. Not befitting lords, which is what we are. I think that explains so much, as we survey all that is going on in the world today. We have lost touch with who we are. I think of that as I hear how we have taken the tragedy at the A.M.E. church in Charleston, and have turned it into a debate over a flag, a symbol. As if removing a flag from South Carolina government buildings will solve the problem which is plaguing us. And I think of another flag; what to some is a symbol of freedom, but to others is a symbol of aggression and oppression. I am now thinking of the American flag. It is just a symbol. That is why some fly it proudly. And, others burn it. It is just a symbol. But when we have lost touch with who we are, we cling to symbols. How very foolish!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *