True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present.
True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True eloquence seems to stutter.
The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 45, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Today, we have yet another chapter covering the distinction between the eternal reality and the illusion which masquerades as the truth. Lao Tzu keeps talking about this because the illusion can seem all too real to us, deceiving us. And, what is real may just not seem quite what we think it ought to be. We have been conditioned over the course of many years to believe the illusion is what is real.
And this makes seeing beyond the illusion to what is real quite a challenge for us. Thankfully, Lao Tzu is patient with us. Taking it slow. Repeating concepts in different ways. Just trying to communicate to us.
True perfection seems imperfect. That is the illusion. It doesn’t seem perfect. Yet, Lao Tzu encourages us to see the lie for what it is. Appearances can be deceiving. What things seem to be may be very different from what they are. True perfection is perfectly itself. That is the eternal reality. I wonder if it isn’t just years of conditioning that has us doubting the truth. Perhaps, we just want the truth to be different from what it is.
And it isn’t just perceptions. Though that is a huge part of it. True fullness seems empty. Once again, that is the illusion. But the eternal reality is more than just fullness. It is fully present. What has us seeing true fullness as emptiness? Are we bogged down in what has been? Or fearful of what may be? True fullness is always in the present moment. If we are letting things pull us away from the present moment, is it any wonder, that true fullness seems empty? Our thinking is cloudy, murky. And that has skewed our perception of what is eternally true, in this present moment.
Lao Tzu keeps on and on about this because he understands how powerful the illusion is to us. True straightness seems crooked. True wisdom seems foolish. True eloquence seems to stutter. When what is straight seems crooked we want to intervene. We want to straighten that which is crooked. When wisdom seems like folly, we won’t see any value in it. We’ll just laugh and walk away. And what of the ones who speak the truth? Our minds are so muddled that their speech seems to stutter and falter. “Make it stop! Make it stop!” We can’t bear to hear the truth when we are so inured in the illusion.
That right there is the number one problem, I think, facing the liberty movement. We sound like stuttering fools to the masses of people.
So, how do we deal with this? The problem of distinguishing between the eternal reality and the illusion which masquerades as the truth. This is how Lao Tzu says the Master does it. If you don’t want to be deceived, don’t be in a hurry, and don’t interfere. Allow things to happen. Yes, that is exactly what he said. Simply allow things to happen. Don’t interfere with them. Just let them happen. You can still shape events as they come. That isn’t the same thing as interfering with them. It is cooperating with the Tao. Letting it shape you. And always be ready to step out of the way. Let the illusion pass on by. You don’t have to fall in its snare. Step out of the way. The truth will tell. The Tao will speak for itself. Let it.