The generals have a saying:
‘Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.’
This is called going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.
There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.
When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 69, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Two chapters ago, Lao Tzu boiled down his teachings to just three things: simplicity, patience, and compassion. These, he said, should be our three greatest treasures. And, because I do consider these my three greatest treasures, I said, I guard them as carefully as I would a room full of rubies.
In yesterday’s chapter, Lao Tzu began talking about how to guard these treasures. He told us, if we are to be our best, we need to be like children, to compete without competing, in a spirit of play.
Yesterday’s chapter was all about play. But, in today’s chapter, Lao Tzu gets down to the serious business of what we are guarding against.
Yesterday, Lao Tzu said the best general enters the mind of his enemy. Today, he tells us the generals have a saying. Generals are the experts when it comes to being on guard against any threat; so, I will defer to them.
They say, “Rather than making the first move, it is better to wait and see. Rather than advancing an inch, it is better to retreat a yard.” With this saying, the generals are practicing Lao Tzu’s three teachings, simplicity, patience, and compassion. The point of their saying is to go forward without advancing, and to push back without using weapons.
What we must be on our guard against is underestimating our enemy. Lao Tzu identifies it as the greatest misfortune. And, just in case we don’t know what he means by underestimating our enemy, he tells us. It means thinking they are evil. By thinking they are evil, we are making them out to be less than what they are. When we underestimate them, we are devaluing them. Unworthy of our love, and unworthy of our respect. They aren’t worthy of life. They aren’t worthy of liberty. And, they certainly aren’t worthy of pursuing their own happiness, even when their own pursuit of happiness doesn’t infringe, at all, on others’. Let’s strip them of rights we afford the rest of us. And, we won’t let a silly notion, like due process, slow us down.
You can probably see where I am going with this. I am, of course, thinking of the so-called Progressives in Washington D.C., who, if they were truly Progressives would be standing up against the tide eroding our civil liberties. Instead, they are revealing themselves to be Regressives, by calling for further erosion of civil liberties. “We can’t have our enemies getting their hands on guns!”
Yes, this is regressive. It isn’t going forward. It isn’t advancing. It is using weapons to try to push back; and it is destroying our three greatest treasures. They have become the enemy, themselves.
Here is a lesson I wish a few people would learn. When two great forces oppose each other, the victory will go, not to the aggressor, but to the one who knows how to yield. Filibusters and sit-ins have a purpose. Just not the one they are being used for. They have a much higher purpose. To protect civil liberties, and our three greatest treasures.