The Master keeps her mind
always at one with the Tao.
That is what gives her her radiance.
The Tao is ungraspable.
How can her mind be at one with it?
Because she doesn’t cling to ideas.
The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
How can it make her radiant?
Because she lets it.
Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 21, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
For those of you who are interested in the continuing saga of my encounter on Facebook with a couple of neocons, I will add just a little more. As I expected, they were completely taken aback by what I had to say. I found out that I qualify as part of the “Blame America First” crowd, and they expected I would be voting for Bernie Sanders. I never have thought that my opposition to my government’s imperialism qualified as “blaming America first”; but if it does, I guess I prefer that to those who believe America can do no wrong. And, as far as Bernie Sanders is concerned, I don’t believe he has ever been critical of American foreign policy. He doesn’t want to end all wars, he only wants to make sure that vets don’t fail to get their blood-stained hands on the apparently endless supply of money the United States government has at its disposal. I am not knocking veterans here. I just don’t want there to be any more veterans. So, if denying veterans benefits would cause people to rise up and demand an end to all these wars, I’d be for that.
But none of that really has anything to do with today’s chapter. Or does it? When I think of what a difficult time my friends, both those who are conservatives and those who are progressives, have of trying to “get” me, maybe that is a metaphor for the Tao in today’s chapter.
The Tao is ungraspable. And, dark and unfathomable. Don’t read too much into me calling myself a metaphor for the Tao. While my friends may be beset on all sides trying to understand me, the Tao is so much more than little ol’ me.
I like to refer to the Tao as before and beyond. It is before time and space were. It is beyond is and is not. Looking inside of myself, only allows me to know just how true this is.
But, that doesn’t solve the problem of how to keep your mind always at one with the Tao. That was Lao Tzu’s point in today’s chapter. The Master does it. It is what gives her her radiance.
But how can this be? Since the Tao is ungraspable, how can her mind be at one with it? This question always gets a chuckle out of me. Perhaps that is because I have been observing the world with all its turmoil, for long enough to see just how silly we can be in our disoriented state. One thing that I have observed is, when faced with something that is ungraspable, there will always be those who will be trying to grasp it anyway. Sort of like those who will see a sign that says, “Caution, Wet Paint”, and they just have to touch it to see if it is so.
But the Master doesn’t try to grasp it. She doesn’t hold on to anything. Except maybe the center of the circle. Our problem seems to boil down to the preconceived ideas and notions we have. We cling to those, in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are wrong-headed. We live in a constant state of cognitive dissonance. We know better. Or, at least, we think we do. But we go on clinging to them. Our every action attests to the turmoil and discomfort our psyches are enduring. But will we let them go? No. Yet, that is exactly what we are going to have to do, if we are going to be one with the Tao. Remember, friends, the Master is our example. If she can do it, we can too.
But that doesn’t explain how she gets her radiance. Lao Tzu has talked at great lengths on just how dark and unfathomable the Tao is. Since chapter one, we knew it to be shrouded in darkness. What’s up with that? How can it make her radiant?
And once again, our problem is one of trying too hard. Of trying, at all. The Master doesn’t try to be radiant. She merely lets it happen. Even our cooperation can be nothing short of interference. Don’t try so hard. Don’t try at all. Just let it be. We think that somehow we need to help. No! Stop that! Stop helping. Just let. Just be.