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 art seems artless.
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’s chapter continues where yesterday’s chapter left off. It is all in how we perceive things. Why aren’t we content? Because we still perceive lack. True perfection seems imperfect. Realize, this is true perfection we are talking about, here. It only seems imperfect. True fullness, seems empty to us. So, we keep wanting to add more and more to it. But that emptiness we perceive is the key to everything, as Lao Tzu has said many times before. Out of that seeming emptiness, comes an infinite abundance. It is fully present.
True straightness seems crooked. True wisdom seems foolish. True art seems artless. The way things seem to be confounds us. Which is why we can’t trust what we perceive with our senses. We need to look inside ourselves, and trust our inner vision.
The wise and virtuous allow things to happen, not being swayed by outward circumstances, but trusting their inner vision. They shape events as they come. Not before, and not after. Then, they step out of the way and let the Tao, the Way things are, speak for itself.
Being fully present, when you seem to be empty, truly is the key to everything. Robert Brookes, in his translation of this chapter, puts it like this: “Activity overcomes the feeling of being cold, and keeping still conquers the feeling of being hot.” We are talking about being fully present, here; living fully in the present moment. Are you cold? We have this tendency to want to just cover ourselves up with blankets and sit there shivering. But, what we really need to do is get up and get moving. Likewise, when we are hot, we seem to not realize we need to cool off. Calm yourself. Sit down. Be still. The Tao speaks for itself when we let it. And it speaks by responding to yin with yang, and to yang with yin. If the way things seem to be isn’t lining up with the way things are, the chances are good, it is because we aren’t letting yin and yang balance things out in our life. This is how we shape events as they come. There is a time to let, a time to shape, and a time to step out of the way. And these times always coexist together in the eternal present. Be fully present, and let the Tao speak for itself.