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 a 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)
I hope that you enjoyed my little look, yesterday, at both yin and yang and how they interact together to create order out of the chaos. Today, I want to expand on that, and take a little bit closer look at the center of the circle, which is where Lao Tzu says the Master always resides.
Lao Tzu begins with the question on the mind and heart of every one who has ever hoped and dreamed of making this world a better and brighter place in which to live. Do we want to improve the world? Well, of course we do. We want to be good stewards of this world upon which we spend such a small fraction of time, when compared to all of eternity. We want to make it a better and brighter place for the generations to come. And we certainly want to make it a better and brighter place than previous generations have left it.
But just as our hopes are rising, Lao Tzu dashes them. “I don’t think it can be done.”
Lao Tzu has some explaining to do. What does he mean, it can’t be done?
Good news. Lao Tzu doesn’t just leave us hanging. He does some explaining.
He says the world is sacred. Let that sink in for just a moment. The world is sacred. When he says that, what he is saying is that the way things are is the way things are. When we refuse to accept that, when we try to tamper with it, we are going to ruin what is sacred. What should be sacrosanct. You simply can’t improve on it. It is already perfect. Or have we forgotten what we have been learning so far in the Tao Te Ching? You can’t treat the world like it is an object. When you treat it like it is an object you are going to lose it.
So much of the problems with the world that we are so gung ho on changing, on trying to control, are not a problem with the way things are, in the first place. They are the result of tampering. With trying to control.
This is what Lao Tzu is trying to get us to understand when he says we simply must accept that the way things are is the way things are. That is why he insists that there is a time for being ahead and a time for being behind; a time for being in motion, and a time for being at rest; a time for being vigorous, and a time for being exhausted; a time for being safe, and a time for being in danger.
What, you can’t accept that? You can’t accept that you can’t be in control at all times?
But how much better it would be for you to be like the Master. She sees things as they are; therefore, she doesn’t try to control them. She understands the way things are. She understands that there is a time for everything, and that everything will happen in its own time. Let things go their own way. Reside at the center of the circle. That is Lao Tzu’s prescription.
Now what does Lao Tzu mean by residing at the center of the circle?
Let me invite you once again to take a look at my tumblr icon that we were talking about yesterday. The circle represents everything. You have the familiar yin and yang symbol within the circle, and in the center of the circle is the letter A, for anarchism.
Of course, I was going to bring it back to this. The primal state. Anarchism. Where the Tao does the controlling. The invisible hand of the free market. And everything balances out perfectly, in harmony and unity. When we let the invisible hand work, free of our tampering, the Tao achieves everything that is needed, perfectly. And the sacred world that we live in cannot be improved upon.