In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creatures flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct.
The Master views the parts with compassion,
because he understands the whole.
His constant practice is humility.
He doesn’t glitter like a jewel
but lets himself be shaped by the Tao,
as rugged and common as a stone.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 39, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
This is, at least, the third time Lao Tzu has talked about what harmony with the Tao looks like in our world. Really, I have lost count; but, I don’t think it can be said too many times. I would like to think everyone would like to live in a world like this. What is the word which could be used to describe it? Pristine? Yes, that sounds right. It is truly beautiful. A paradise. A clear and spacious sky. A solid and full earth. All creatures flourishing together. And, everyone content with the way they are. When we center ourselves in the Tao, when we don’t interfere with the Tao, nature endlessly repeats itself; and, it is endlessly renewed.
But, of course, we have been interfering with the Tao, for sometime now. Lao Tzu, in yesterday’s chapter, said the Tao has been lost. He was referring to our intuitive and spontaneous connection with it. I have posted a couple of recent articles by Chris Hedges on Tumblr. In those articles, he warned about an impending disaster. Lao Tzu would call it “a danger we could avoid, if we only knew when to stop”. There has even been an ongoing “Ron Paul” inspired meme tracking it. What Lao Tzu describes, in today’s chapter, sounds like something Al Gore might have received an Oscar for producing a film about. The sky has become filthy. The earth is depleted. The equilibrium has crumbled. Creatures are becoming extinct.
It is tempting, oh so tempting, to see the results of “man’s interference” with the Tao, and propose even more interfering, as the solution.
That is my one concern when I hear the hype about climate change. I don’t care to enter a debate over whether humans are responsible, or not. I am much more concerned with the proposed solutions only wreaking greater havoc. “But, we have to do something!” I will agree with you, if that “something” is to stop interfering with the Tao. I am not so easily moved, if your “something” is to interfere more.
Chris Hedges foresees a fascist uprising in America. Trump, or someone, who will come along after Trump, will lead the masses of the disenfranchised in a revolution against the so-called powerful elite. Don’t take my words for it. Go to my page and read those two articles. They were powerful. I might even go so far as to call them prophetic. As I was reading those articles, I kept thinking about one quote of John F. Kennedy’s that I actually like. “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
I don’t know the context of that quote. I know he said that in 1962, before I was born. I was still in diapers on the day he was assassinated. But, that quote just keeps sounding more and more prescient with each passing year.
I want peaceful revolution to be possible. I want to believe it still is.
But here is the thing. I can’t do anything about the powerful elite. They are the ones who have been preventing peaceful revolution. Will they prevail? Or, will they see the error of their ways in time? Will they know when to stop, and avoid danger? Or, has the clock already run out? I don’t know.
Here is what I do know. If we truly want that pristine world that Lao Tzu described at the beginning of today’s chapter, we need to return to the Source of it. It is the result of harmony with the Tao. The only way to truly view the parts with compassion is to understand the whole. It requires a constant practice of humility. We can’t be interested in glittering like a jewel; we have to be willing to let ourselves be shaped by the Tao, into something as rugged and common as stone. Are we willing?