Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn’t try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counter force.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon one’s self.
The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 30, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Today’s commentary will be something of an addendum to yesterday’s commentary on the “great bathroom controversy”. I have friends who have said to me, “Even if we may agree with you, that transgendered individuals should be able to go to the bathroom which corresponds to their gender, regardless what their biological sex may be, what the Obama administration has done, in challenging the North Carolina law, and the guidelines for all public schools to follow with regard to their own transgender students, is an egregious overreach by the Executive branch of the Federal government. The President doesn’t have this power!” I am going to ignore, for the time being, that these same friends have not complained at all, in the past, when President Obama exceeded his Constitutional powers in waging wars without Congressional approval, his many drone kills, including of American citizens. I will cut, right to the chase. I have never lauded President Obama as an example of someone who relies on the Tao in governing. And, I absolutely agree, every time he tries to force issues, or defeat enemies by force of arms, he runs smack dab into one of the basic and elementary laws of physics. For every force there is a counter force. Violence, even well intentioned, always rebounds upon one’s self.
But, let’s just be clear, here. Obama isn’t the first president who has “stretched” the limits of his power, while governing. And, he certainly won’t be the last. By the time the next president gets done, and this will be true regardless of whether we are talking of another President Clinton, or a President Trump, what Obama has done will seem quite tame in comparison. That, to me, is something which should concern us all, greatly. And, while I agree that Obama regularly goes beyond what a president should be allowed to do, our Congress, and our Supreme Court, continue to allow it. So much for checks and balances. Of course, there is this: What should be the role of the Federal government? One legitimate role is to protect our liberties from State governments who have overreached in their own way. The North Carolina law should be challenged. It is a curtailment of freedom for certain individuals, marking them as second-class citizens. And, the guidelines for all public schools are, for now, just guidelines. If you are really concerned, perhaps, you might contact your own representative in Washington D.C., and see if you can get them off their butt, and working on your behalf.
However, don’t let that last paragraph convince you I am unreservedly supportive of Obama’s handling of this, or any situation. As I have said before, I want leaders who will rely on the Tao in governing. I want leaders who won’t try to force issues, or defeat enemies by force of arms. I want wise and virtuous leaders who do their job, and then stop.
When you understand the universe is forever out of control, you won’t try to dominate events. You will understand that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao. Just do your job, and then take a step back. Let things go their own way. Don’t try to control them. Don’t interfere. Don’t intervene. Just stay in the center of the circle.
And, why are their bullies anyway? What is it that makes the violent choose violence?
If they believed in themselves, they wouldn’t try to convince others. If they were content with themselves, they wouldn’t need others’ approval. If they accepted themselves, the whole world would accept them.
Violence isn’t just not the Way. It is the anti-Way. It is running in direct opposition to the Way. For the last couple of chapters we have been talking about accepting the world, just as it is. Today’s chapter, ends up being about how to live in such a way, the world accepts us. And, we come to find out, the world will accept us, if only we will accept ourselves.
Tomorrow’s chapter will delve a little deeper into the psychology of violence; but, on a more positive note, it will delve into the psychology of decency. If we are to choose one, over the other, let us arm ourselves with the tools of decency, rather than the tools of violence.