True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.
The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.
The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 81, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Today, we come to the end of another cycle through Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. I have enjoyed having you along on my journey, once again; but, I will admit, I am already looking forward to beginning the journey anew tomorrow, with chapter one. Each time through, I feel, I learn (or unlearn) so very much along the way. Those of you who have only recently begun to follow me, I think, will appreciate seeing how the journey begins and continues; I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your messages, asking questions and encouraging me. Keep it coming, and I will keep on keeping on.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still have this final chapter to talk about. Here Lao Tzu talks, once again, about true words. You will remember, a few chapters back, Lao Tzu said, “True words seem paradoxical.” They don’t seem true. Today, he tells us they aren’t eloquent, either. And, what’s more, eloquent words aren’t true. This is something good for us to understand. I know, I always need reminding of this; since, I am always finding myself wishing I was more eloquent. The idea that truth and eloquence often have an inverse relationship, is lost on a lot of us, a great deal of the time. Eloquence seems to bequeath a certain importance to things. But, as we have noted, time and time again, things are often not what they seem to be. Snake oil salesmen were quite eloquent in their day. And the snake oil salesmen of our day can be quite eloquent, too. It is time to look beyond the eloquence, to the truth or falseness of what they claim to be. We see it all around us. People who need to prove their point. Lao Tzu puts it all out there for us. If you are wise, you won’t need to prove your point. And, if you need to prove your point, you aren’t wise. I was thinking of this, all this past week, while I have watched social media erupting with the talking points of “flat earthers”. To those of you who have tried to go toe to toe with these people, I offer these words of advice from Mark Twain, “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
Now. Lao Tzu has a few final parting words about the Master and the Tao. It was only a few chapters back that Lao Tzu said of the Master, “She can keep on giving, because there is no end to her wealth.” We have such a different way of understanding wealth that Lao Tzu knows he must qualify what he was saying, with his words today. “The Master has no possessions.” See, wealth, for Lao Tzu has nothing to do with possessions. But how can the Master keep on giving if he has no possessions? Good question! But Lao Tzu is ready with the answer. “The more he does for others, the happier he is. The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is.” Wealth isn’t about how much you have, it is about how much you give. And, happiness, or contentment, isn’t about what you have, or don’t have, it is about what you do for others. If this seems like some self-sacrificing altruism to you, I don’t mean to scare off the Objectivists, things aren’t what they seem to be. All Lao Tzu is pointing out is, it is in our very nature to give. Not to give until we have nothing left to give, but to give and give and give and give, only to find, there is no end to your abundance. Because that, is the nature of our Universe. The more you give, the more you have to give. The more you hold back from giving, the less you will have.
But, even after my commentary on yesterday’s chapter, it is still important to understand, this giving, isn’t something to be forced. It has to be a voluntary thing. The Tao nourishes us all, by not forcing. The Master leads us, by not dominating.
There still seem to be so many lessons for us to learn, or unlearn; but it looks like this is the end. Today, we conclude. Tomorrow, we will start all over again.