The Tao is the center of the Universe,
the good man’s treasure,
the bad man’s refuge.
Honors can be bought with fine words,
respect can be won with good deeds;
but the Tao is beyond all value,
and no one can achieve it.
Thus, when a new leader is chosen,
don’t offer to help him
with your wealth or your expertise.
to teach him about the Tao.
Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao?
Because, being one with the Tao,
when you seek you find;
and when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
That is why everybody loves it.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 62, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Over the course of the last few days, Lao Tzu has been instructing would-be leaders in the art of governing. His instructions? Learn to follow the Tao. Trust the Tao. Center your whole country in it. Let go of your desire to control. Practice self-restraint in governing. Don’t try to force things. Don’t interfere in the affairs of others. Nourish your own people. Just yesterday, Lao Tzu said that one mark of a great leader is that they will surround themselves with advisers that will point out their faults. Those advisers would be the rest of us. We aren’t all destined to be leaders. But we are all necessary in the formation of good leaders.
Today, Lao Tzu opens the chapter saying that the Tao is beyond all value, both to those who are good and to those who are bad. To those who are good, the Tao is a treasure. To those who are bad, it is a refuge. More than honors, which can be bought at a price. Or respect, which can be won. The Tao is not something that can be achieved.
It is because of this that we, who are called on to be advisers for leaders should understand just how great is our responsibility. Fine words and good deeds aren’t what they need. Our wealth and expertise, likewise, are not what they need. The best thing that we can do to help new leaders is to teach them about the Tao.
I actually followed my own advice during the last congressional election in 2014. I was an adviser to an independent running for Congress in my own district, here, in southern Missouri. Every day of her campaign I was thinking of my responsibility to teach her about the Tao, and I did. Sadly, she didn’t win. She was running as an independent in a solidly republican district filled with people who wouldn’t vote for anyone other than a republican. She did get second place in her own home town. That was quite an accomplishment, beating out the democrat that was running. But elections are a useless exercise. The corporate establishment always wins. I had hoped that she could win against all the odds against her, but what I really wanted to do was teach her about the Tao.
This is what I strive to do with my blog. It isn’t that I think that any of those who are out there seeking for power are reading my blog. Though they are welcome. But I do think there are a number of you, my readers, that are destined for greater things than you imagine. I do hope you learn something here. One of the things I hope you will learn is why the ancient Masters esteemed the Tao, so much. It is because, when you are one with the Tao and you seek, you will find. And when you make a mistake, you will be forgiven.
The Tao is both a treasure and a refuge for all of us. That is the reason that everybody loves it.