Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.
The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.
There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 29, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Today, we are continuing talking about our relationship with the world in which we live. The Earth is our home. As we follow it, as it follows the Universe, as it follows the Tao, we are one with the Tao and have great power. We are one of the four great powers. So, let’s talk about that power. What do we have the power to do? We have the power to receive the world in our arms. We have the power to be a pattern for the world. And, we have the power to accept the world as it is. These are all great powers. But none is more great than the power to accept the world as it is. When we avail ourselves of that power, the Tao will be luminous inside of us and we will return to our primal selves. When we don’t avail ourselves of that power, we might start thinking we can improve the world. But that is one power that Lao Tzu doesn’t think we have.
If we are going to accept the world as it is, we need to get this one thing settled: The world is sacred. It can’t be improved. Trying to improve the world is tampering with the very nature of things. The world is sacred. It is already a perfect home for us. When we treat it like it is an object to be exploited, we place ourselves in very real danger. The danger is that we will ruin it, that we will lose it. And then where will we be? No longer lords, that is for sure.
So, how do we avoid tampering with it? How do we truly accept the world, just as it is; not as an object, but as something subject to the natural laws governing our Universe?
Once again, the complementary relationship of yin and yang show us the way. Accepting means agreeing that there is a time for everything. And, letting things come and go according to their time. There is a time for yang to be in ascendancy. And, there is a time for yin to be in ascendancy. This is simply accepting the way things are. Things in our world, our Universe, are always in a state of flux. Change is the only constant.
There is a time for being ahead. But there is also a time for being behind. There is a time for being in motion. But there is also a time for being at rest. There is a time for being rigorous. But there is also a time for being exhausted. There is a time for being safe. But there is also a time for being in danger. Yin and yang, being what they are, these all follow each other. Much as the Earth follows the Universe, and the Universe follows the Tao.
We want to follow the Earth, not tamper with it, not interfere with it. When we go against the flow, when we try to get ahead when it is time to be behind, or when we try to put things in motion that need to be at rest, or when we push ourselves to be vigorous when we are already exhausted, we will find ourselves in danger, when we could have been safe.
We really need to follow the example of the Master, who sees things as they are, and not as we may wish them to be. She doesn’t tamper with the natural order. She never tries to control. She just lets things go their own way, knowing there is a time for everything. She resides at the center of the circle, the most sacred place of all. It is there we let all things take their course. It is there the Tao does nothing, yet, through it, all things are done. That is where we need to reside. It is when we venture out, away from the center of the circle, that things start to get chaotic, and the temptation to interfere becomes strong. But if we will stay in the center of the circle, that most sacred place, we, too, can do nothing, while letting all things get done.