The Emergent Order: Always Just Beyond The Clouds, If We Will Only Let Them Pass

Express yourself completely.
Then keep quiet.
Be like the forces of nature:
When it blows, there is only wind.
When it rains, there is only rain.
When the clouds pass, the sun shines through.

If you open yourself to the Tao,
you are at one with the Tao,
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely.

Open yourself to the Tao.
Then trust your natural responses;
and everything will fall into place.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 23, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Who wants to be partial, crooked, and empty? Who could be content to be those things? And yet, when we see the self as self, that is exactly what we find we are. We were talking about this yesterday. The only way to become whole, straight, and full is to see the world as self. But how do we so that, without losing our selves in the process? Lao Tzu told us how. First, we have to be content to be what we are; partial, crooked, and empty. Then, we have to be lived by the Tao. This is giving everything up, letting go of all our desires. This is how we become whole, straight, and full. This is the only way to truly be ourselves. I said, yesterday, being content is letting. Letting yourself be what you are, and letting yourself be lived by the Tao. If you want to be content, you start by being content. If this sounds circular, maybe, it is because it is. The Tai Chi symbol is, after all, a circle, representing everything that is; with yin and yang in a constant state of flow, within it. And where does Lao Tzu tell us to stay? In the center of the circle.

But fret not, Lao Tzu doesn’t leave us with just that as an explanation. In today’s chapter, he tells us exactly how to be lived by the Tao. Remember, we start with being content with being what we are. Now what? Now, express yourself, that partial, crooked, and empty self, completely. Don’t hold anything back. Don’t leave anything in reserve. Get it all out, and be done with it. Then, keep quiet. Often, we either jump the gun on being quiet, without first, completely expressing ourselves; or, we just keep on expressing ourselves, long after it should be complete, never becoming quiet.

That is a pretty common problem; so Lao Tzu offers this metaphor, to help us understand exactly how he wants us to be: Be like the forces of nature. Philosophical Taoism is nature’s way. When the wind blows, there is only wind. When it rains, there is only rain. This is how the forces of nature express themselves completely. Expressing yourself completely is like clouds in the sky. And when the clouds pass, after the wind and the rain, the sun shines through. The sun, here, is a metaphor for the Tao. Express yourself completely, like the wind and the rain does. Then be quiet. When the clouds pass, the sun will shine through.

We wanted to know how to be lived by the Tao. Well, we have to open ourselves to the Tao. That is how to be one with it. The clouds have to pass for the sun to shine through. But remember, the sun was always there, right behind those clouds. So, express yourself completely; and then let the clouds pass; keep quiet, you open yourself to the Tao in this way. You and the Tao become one. You are able to embody it completely.

I want to be clear, here. This involves knowing not-knowing and doing not-doing. There are two things that are going to happen when we open ourselves to the Tao. First, you are opening yourself to insight. Practicing knowing that you don’t know, opens yourself to insight. Let that happen. Become one with it. Use it completely. Second, you are opening yourself to loss. Don’t balk at this. Don’t resist, don’t interfere, don’t try and force or rush things. Keep quiet. Remember what Lao Tzu said yesterday. “If you want to be reborn, you must let yourself die. If you want to be given everything, you must give everything up.” You are opening yourself to loss, when you open yourself to the Tao. You simply must become one with loss. You must accept it completely.

If you will do this, if you open yourself to the Tao, then you will be able to trust your natural responses. Your body’s intelligence has been restored (see chapter eighteen). And everything will fall into place. How everything falls into place is the emergent order (see chapter three). It is the eternal reality, the way things are. Always, just beyond the clouds, if we will only let them pass.

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