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)
Because I think of myself as an observer of the reality we perceive with our senses, what I have already referred to as merely an illusion, I find myself mostly amused by the spectacle. I was talking to a friend, earlier, about what I believe I am observing; the crumbling of one of the great political parties in the United States. The establishment knows they are in trouble, now. They never saw Trump coming. And, they haven’t a clue how to reckon with him. They have even called in their “big guns”, Mitt Romney, to try to right the ship; but, as I am observing things, it is a bit too little, and too late. The ship is going down. I am amused, because it is all an illusion; it always was. That ship hasn’t been seaworthy for a good many election cycles, now.
Of course, that wasn’t the way most people perceived things. It took time for the facade to be pulled away. From my point of view, the only way this spectacle could be any better for an observer, like myself, is if the Democratic establishment was imploding just like the Republican establishment. Their days are numbered, too. The writing is on the wall. But, the Democratic establishment was better prepared for an insurgent campaign, like Bernie Sanders’; Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment can still ride their ship safely to the next port of call. But, make no mistake, it isn’t because of how seaworthy their own ship is. It is only because of how bad things are on the other side of the political establishment.
I know I have some followers, who are distressed about this turn of events. How can I be amused? I should be dismayed, like they are. But, that would require me to believe any of this matters. It doesn’t. It is all an illusion. And, the illusion is being exposed. I am almost giddy.
Lao Tzu has been warning of these things. He said, if you want to avoid danger, you must know when to stop. Names and forms are provisional. Institutions have functions for a time. But they all must come to an end.
You may be wondering, about now, what this has to do with today’s chapter. I think the answer is, everything. All things end in the Tao. And, for those of us who have been amusing ourselves with beholding the spectacle, Lao Tzu has some sage advice.
If powerful men and women could center themselves in the Tao, and remain centered, all would be well. The whole world would be transformed by itself….
I really have to interrupt Lao Tzu right here. I don’t want there to be any confusion on this point. The end is not quite upon us. Oh, it may be the end of one institution. And, a good riddance is certainly in order. But the so-called powerful among us aren’t through with their meddling, just yet.
It isn’t like Donald Trump, or even Bernie Sanders, is offering anything remotely close to centering themselves in the Tao. The powers-that-be, still, are not ready to surrender their egos to the Tao. But, I will still call it progress. If you want to shrink something, you have to let it expand. If you want to get rid of something, you have to first let it flourish.
We need to be like the Tao. It never does anything. Yet, through it, all things are done. What does Lao Tzu mean by this? We have been talking about this for the last couple of days. The subtle perception of the way things are, how to perceive the universal harmony, even in the midst of great pain. It takes understanding the reality we perceive with our senses is nothing more than an illusion. The infinite and eternal reality is what is important. There are laws that govern this reality. You violate those at your own peril.
That is why it is so important to center ourselves in the Tao. It is the only way to avoid danger.
Centering ourselves in the Tao means perceiving the reality before and beyond the finite and temporal one our physical senses perceive. It means letting things come and go without interfering with them. It lets the world transform itself, naturally.
People would be content with their simple, everyday lives, in harmony, and free of desire. People certainly aren’t content now. But, that is because the powerful aren’t letting the world transform itself, naturally.
I have said this so many times, before, I know I must sound like a broken record. The illusion is not sustainable. Little by little, small cracks and fissures have displayed themselves. The dam is going to burst. The facade will come crashing down.
We only have one problem. And, it isn’t the powerful among us. Lao Tzu has been talking about this one problem since his opening chapter. The problem is our desires. We must be free of desire. Lao Tzu only rails against the powerful, because they are in the unique position of being able to do the most harm, or the most good. They are doing the most harm. But, that is only because power tends to corrupt. The desire to interfere, to intervene, the will to more and more power, to dominate, to try to control. What is their incentive to do the most good? Especially when, to do the most good, they would have to humble themselves, and do nothing. That is right. Do nothing; other than center themselves in the Tao, and stay centered.
The way things are is the way things are. The Tao does nothing, yet through it, all things are done. The world can transform itself, in its natural rhythms. Our desires are the only thing that gets in the way of this happening. But just imagine what will transpire when we let go of desire.
When there is no desire, all things will be at peace.