The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done.
If powerful men and women
could center themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.
When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 37, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
For the last several days Lao Tzu has been talking about centering ourselves in the Tao. He talked about how we can perceive the universal harmony, and find peace in our hearts, even in the midst of great pain. But, he also explained that the Tao isn’t something which can be perceived with our senses. It is far too subtle to be perceived in that way. Still, we can center ourselves in the Tao, and remain centered in it. It is a matter of sticking your head so far up your philosophical ass, wait, sorry, that was just the way that a certain anonymous messenger described it for me. What it actually is, is navel-gazing, no wait, that was also a description the same anonymous messenger came up with to describe my process. Seriously, now, it is finding your own true self inside of yourself, in your heart, the core of your being. There, you find the Tao. There you center yourself, trusting what you know in your heart to be true.
Lao Tzu has strongly encouraged us to center ourselves in the Tao. Today’s chapter is the second time he has referenced what would happen if only powerful men and women could do so. And yes, it would be totally cool if they would, if they could. The whole world would be transformed by itself, in its natural rhythms. People would be content with their simple, everyday lives, in harmony, and free of desire.
There is a reason that Lao Tzu keeps coming back to this wishful thinking about powerful men and women. It is because they have it within themselves to do the most good or the most harm. Because they have such power, whether they are going with the flow of the Tao or counter to it, it makes quite an impact on all of us.
It is interesting to note the difference it makes in our lives. Now, understand first, the Tao never DOES anything, yet through it all things are done. That is why centering ourselves in the Tao is so important. You don’t have to DO anything. You just have to BE centered in the Tao. And, because the Tao is simply the way things are, the order, emerging out of chaos, in our Universe, we merely have to ride the wave. All things are done, with only effortless action coming from us.
Powerful men and women, are loath to humble themselves to the point of not-doing. They can’t maintain their power by doing nothing. So, they choose instead to interfere, to force issues, in an effort to try and control. Which is my diagnosis for why the world is in desperate need of being transformed, why it is in the shape that it is in. It is because those that could interfere with the Tao, have interfered with the Tao. And it is one fine mess they have made of things. If they would stop interfering, if they would humble themselves, and center themselves in the Tao, the whole world would be transformed, naturally. Everyone would be content. There would be harmony, and freedom from desire; in other words, peace.
Yes, it is still freedom from desire that is necessary for us to know peace. Lao Tzu has been talking about this since chapter 1, where he said you will never realize the mystery as long as you are caught in desire. The powerful among us are certainly caught in desire. And they want us ensnared in the web of lies and distortions which they cleverly weave. Don’t be like flies caught in the spider’s web. To know peace, there must be no desire.