It’s Just the Way Things Are

If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception
of the way things are.

The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 36, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Today’s chapter may be the most infuriating chapter in all the Tao Te Ching. Why infuriating? Because it tells us exactly the way things are, and we don’t often like the way things are. We want things to be different from the way they are. This is why people who promise they are going to do something about the way things are, rise to power. The will to power is strong among them. The desire to intervene, to interfere, to try to control, to force issues, can be overwhelming. It isn’t so much that power tends to corrupt, as power attracts the corruptible. Props to Frank Herbert.

If you want to shrink something, who has the patience to stay in the center of the circle while it continues to expand? Nope! We want to shrink it! So, out of the circle we go, in order to try to shrink it.

If you want to get rid of something, who has the patience to stay in the center of the circle while it flourishes? Nope! We want to get rid of it! So, out of the circle we go, in order to try to get rid of it.

If you want to take something, who has the patience to stay in the center of the circle and wait for it to be given? Nope! We want to take it! No waiting in patience for us!

But, as we were talking about perceiving the universal harmony, in yesterday’s chapter, in today’s chapter, Lao Tzu points at the subtle perception of the way things are.

It is just the way things are. Let, allow, let, allow, let, allow. If you want something, don’t use force to get it. Wait for it. Wait for it. Don’t leave the center of the circle. There is no better way to show the practice of doing without doing. The practice of the Tao. But, damn it! We can’t really be expected to do nothing.

Oh yes, we can. That is exactly what must be done. The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast. We all know this is true. We have seen it demonstrated for us in a myriad of ways over the course of our lives. Yet, we still try to overcome the hard by being harder, and the fast by being faster. In other words, we try to swim against the current of the Tao.

How much better it is, my friends, when we let our own workings remain a mystery. Be soft, not hard. Be slow, not fast. Wait, until the mud settles, and the right course of action arises all by itself. Patience. Patience.

Infuriating! Yes, I get it. But, it is the way things are. Subtle as it may be. Be like the Tao. Just show people the results.

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