Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.
The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.
There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 29, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I know a whole lot of people who think the whole world is “going to Hell in a hand basket”. I try not to laugh too much about this, because I understand it is only through ignorance, they have allowed fear to work them into a frenzy. They don’t seem to realize every generation, before them, had the same fears. But, that is not to say there aren’t some legitimate causes of concern for our world, today. It is just that these aren’t necessarily the ones that have so many of my friends “up in arms”. The latest “crisis of faith” in our world appears to be revolving around the issue of bathrooms, and exactly who should be using which ones.
I am just going to speak my own mind on this. Why not? It’s my blog.
I have transgender friends. When I went to college, over thirty years ago, I met and became friends with a whole lot of people. Unbeknownst to me, at the time, at least three of them were transgender. Thirty some odd years ago was a very long time, when you are talking about transgender issues. I knew two trans men, who I believed were women. And one trans woman who I believed was a man. In college, they kept their gender identity pretty close to themselves. There was not a lot of understanding in our world, then, about such things. Even those who were suffering from gender dysphoria, didn’t understand it fully. And, I didn’t even find out about the term gender dysphoria until the last few years. I am blessed to have a current, young friend, about half my age, with whom I have been able to have intimate dialog, about their own gender dysphoria. They have educated me quite a bit.
I will say this: Being trans isn’t about not wanting to be the gender you were born. It is about not having your gender correspond with the genitalia you came equipped with. And, there are real reasons, biological ones, which I won’t try to go into, here, why some individuals have a different gender than their genitalia suggests. For some, it might be correct to say, the genitalia with which they were born was a birth defect. I don’t mean to be offensive to anyone, but a lot of strange things can happen during a person’s development in their mother’s womb. We understand this with regard to other birth defects. We don’t seem to be nearly as understanding, with this.
It isn’t a play for attention. It isn’t a choice. It is a fact of life. And, that is why, I wish boys could be allowed to go to boys’ restrooms, and girls could be allowed to go to girls’ restrooms, without bathroom nazis checking to make sure they have the proper equipment.
Okay, okay, I know you are wondering, what does this have to do with today’s chapter? I am glad you asked.
My point is, we all might think the world would be greatly improved if all boys were born with a penis, and all girls with a vagina. If only it was this simple. This black or white. This female or male. We want to improve the world. But, Lao Tzu tells us, I don’t think it can be done.
Yesterday, Lao Tzu told us what we can do for our world. Know the yang, yet keep to the yin. You can nurture the world. You can be a pattern, or example, for the world. And, you can accept the world, as it is.
And, quite frankly, we better accept the world as it is, because the world is sacred. It can’t be improved. Just as it is, it is perfect. We allow things to divide us. We are big on differences. Black or white. Female or male. Religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, class. Did I miss anything? They all divide us. We let our differences divide us, when they should unite us. We are a diverse bunch; and that isn’t a bad thing. It is a good thing. The Tao flows through us all, inside and outside, and returns to our common Source.
When we try to control things, if we try to tamper with the world, we will ruin it. All that is presently wrong with the world is due to our tampering with it. We dare not treat it like an object, we will lose it. I think that is what has me so stirred up, as I am writing this commentary. How much we objectify other human beings.
Okay, okay, if we dare not tamper with things, if we dare not treat people as objects, what, then can we do?
Lao Tzu told us that, yesterday. But I will repeat it, once again. We should be in the business of nurturing our world. We should be a pattern, or example, for our world. We need to accept the world, just as it is.
And, today, Lao Tzu tells us how. Of course, it involves the timely use of yang and yin; just like he was talking about, in yesterday’s chapter.
There is a time for yang and a time for yin. A time for being ahead, and a time for being behind. A time for being in motion, and a time for being at rest. A time for being vigorous, and a time for being exhausted. A time for being safe, and a time for being in danger.
We need to be aware of what time it is. We need to go with the flow of the Tao. The Tao always has perfect timing.
Wise and virtuous people see things as they are. And, they don’t try to control them. They let things go their own way. And, always reside at the center of the circle.
Now, some might say, trans people should just accept the genitalia with which they were born. Don’t try to change things. Don’t try to improve on them. Isn’t that what Lao Tzu is saying? I think people who say things like this are missing Lao Tzu’s point. He wasn’t talking about wanting to improve yourself. He was talking about wanting to improve the world.
The truth is, in spite of the fact I have friends who are trans, and in spite of the fact that I have worked to educate myself about transgender issues, I, still, really, don’t have any idea what it is like to be a different gender than the one I was assigned at birth. So, instead of telling others what I think they should do with their own bodies, I think I will love them, and not try to control them. I will nurture them, and be a pattern for them; and, I will accept them. It is all I really can do. It is all, we all can really do.
Tomorrow, Lao Tzu will remind us of an elementary physics lesson. We will learn how to overcome the temptation to be violent.