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)
Yesterday, we were talking about how we as individual selves may relate to the world. We can receive it in our arms. We can be a pattern for it. And, we can accept it. Those are all powerful expressions of our relationship as individual selves with the world. If only we could be content with those three things. If only we would treat the world as the sacred place it is. Instead, we are not content. It seems we are always itching to try and improve it, to tamper with it. We treat it like an object.
Today, Lao Tzu tells us where that gets us. “The world is sacred. It can’t be improved. If you tamper with it, you will ruin it. If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.”
This is why it is so very important that we avail ourselves of the powerful relationship we as individual selves have with the world. Receive it in your arms. Nurture it. Be a pattern for it. Live your life like you want everyone else to live theirs. This doesn’t require any force or need to control. Trust people and leave them alone. Just be an example that they would want to follow. Your pattern is one of following the Tao. Accept the world. Just as it is. Don’t try and improve on it. Don’t try to change it.
Accepting the world has both passive and active elements to it. There is both yin and yang to it. But it should be effortless.
Sometimes you are going to be behind, when you would rather be ahead. There will be times when you need to rest, when you would prefer to be in motion. That is because there will be times when you are exhausted, after being vigorous. Being behind, needing to rest, being exhausted – these are all yin. If you don’t avail yourself of rest when you are exhausted, you will experience a time of danger. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be experiencing that time of being safe. But that means I need to be content being behind. The Master is content to stay behind. That is why she is ahead. Being ahead, being in motion, being vigorous – these are all yang. And there is a time to be all of those things, as well. What sets the Master apart, though any of us can be the Master, is that she is content to be yin when it is time to be yin. Therefore, when it is time to be yang, she is ready.
Do you see what she did there? She leads with yin. And is met with yang. She is at rest; she waits for her mud to settle. Thus, when it is time to be in motion, she is ready. If we are passive, the right time to be active will make itself clear to us. That isn’t to say we should ignore it, when it comes. We do that at our own peril. The time of danger isn’t just in being active when you should be passive. There is equal danger in being passive when it is time to be active. We can just as easily lag behind when we should be ahead. There is a time to be in motion; when continuing to be at rest is folly. Perhaps we are “playing it safe”. Or, at least that is what we think we are doing. We don’t want to leave our comfort zone, maybe. But the dangers we are trying to avoid by “playing it safe” are imagined ones. And the real danger is in not going with the flow. There is a time for being in danger. Sometimes, you need to leave behind your comfort zone.
We need to be like the Master, and see things as they are. Understand the times and the seasons. Watch how they turn. Don’t try to control them. Let them go their own way. Just reside at the center of the circle. That is the most sacred of places in our sacred world.