Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn’t try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counter force.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon one’s self.
The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 30, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Today’s chapter is another one of my favorites in the Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu has been teaching us about the need to rely on the Tao in every aspect of our lives. By relying on the Tao, we will have a life of ease; rather than one of struggle. Today’s chapter begins with an elementary physics lesson. It is one we all learned when we were very young. It is how to interact with others. Like how we should interact on the playground as children. When we rely on the Tao in governing people (that word, governing, can easily be translated as interacting with), we won’t try to force issues, or defeat our enemies by force of arms. Bullies on the playground may be feared, but are they respected? Are they accepted? No! For every force there is a counter force. Violence, even the well-intentioned variety of violence, always rebounds upon one’s self. This is a law. It always is this way.
We have been talking about how being one with the Tao depends on our relationship with the Earth. The world is sacred, and it can’t be improved. We shouldn’t treat it like an object. That will only result in our losing it. We must accept the world as it is. We must follow it to be lived by the Tao. And, what will be the result? When we accept the world as it is, the world will accept us.
This has been a wild week. It began with the tragedy at the AME church in Charleston being turned into a debate over a symbol, the confederate flag. And it ended with a whole lot of rainbow flags being proudly displayed. I have never been one to get all excited about waving any flag. A flag is just a symbol. I always wonder, where is the substance? I understand the passion on both sides of these issues. But I don’t understand why we exchange substance for symbolism.
Caught up in the drama of the last few days, I think we have a tendency to forget the elementary physics that govern our world. The Universe is forever out of our control. The Master understands this. That is why he simply does his job and then stops. He doesn’t try to control. He doesn’t try to force issues. He doesn’t resort to force of arms. He doesn’t try to dominate events. He understands what violence will end up doing to himself. He doesn’t wish to go against the current of the Tao.
Ultimately, what accepting the world as it is comes down to, is believing in yourself, being content with yourself, and accepting yourself. You don’t have to convince others, when you believe in yourself. You don’t need others’ approval, when you are content with yourself. And, most importantly of all, when you accept yourself, the whole world will accept you.
That is the basic yearning of every man, woman, and child in our world. To be accepted, just as we are. We yearn to be free of violence. We yearn for acceptance. So, go ahead, all of you; raise your flag; display it proudly. But remember that your symbol, is just that, a symbol. The substance comes in believing in yourself, in being content with yourself, in accepting yourself, just as you are. Don’t worry about others’ approval. You don’t have to convince others, if you can just be convinced in yourself.
The Universe is forever out of our control; but it is governed by elementary laws. The Universe follows the Tao. The Earth, our world, follows the Universe. And we, when we accept ourselves, follow the Earth. When you accept yourself, the whole world will accept you.