The Tao is always at ease.
It overcomes without competing,
answers without speaking a word,
arrives without being summoned,
accomplishes without a plan.
Its net covers the whole universe.
And though its meshes are wide,
it doesn’t let a thing slip through.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 73, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
If you have been following along for very long, I am sure you have noticed it. Philosophical Taoism is filled with “withouts”. We have learned about the practice of doing without doing, knowing without knowing, competing without competing, and (just yesterday) teaching without teaching. The Tao, you see, is all about being without. Lao Tzu remarks on a few of them today. “It overcomes without competing, answers without speaking a word, arrives without being summoned, accomplishes without a plan.” Truly, these “withouts” are what the Tao is all about. There is a lesson, here, my friends. Maybe there are a few things we can live “without”, so that we, like the Tao, can always be at ease.
Every chapter, we have had before, has been leading up to these next, and last, nine chapters. Lao Tzu has been teaching us how to live a life of ease. One, in which we are content with who and what we are. The Tao is always at ease; so, if we will center ourselves in the Tao, we can always be at ease, too.
It does without doing. It knows without knowing. It overcomes without needing to compete. It answers without ever having to speak a word. It arrives without ever needing to be summoned. It accomplishes everything without needing any plan. Take a step back. Better yet, take what I will call “the Taoist plunge”. You know what I mean. Just fall backwards into the Tao’s net. It is easy. Its net covers the whole universe.
Now, I know, some of you will point out how wide its meshes are. You are tempted to be fearful about whether you might just slip through. Can I really trust it? My friends, we are going to be covering this in the days ahead. Your fears are needless, it doesn’t let a thing slip through.