He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft,
its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn’t know about
the union of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony.
The Master’s power is like this.
He lets all things
come and go effortlessly,
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 55, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
What is it that has Lao Tzu talking about a newborn’s erect penis?
How is that, for a provocative start to a blog post?
Yesterday, I said that each and every one of us is a whoever. And whoever can be a force to be reckoned with, for good in the world. Today, Lao Tzu is talking about a newborn child. Lao Tzu can seemingly take anything and use it as a metaphor to talk about the Tao.
And so, because we have arrived at this chapter, we are going to talk about newborns. I had some experience with newborns. Back in August of 1990 and then again in November of 1994. So, forgive me if I am a little rusty. I loved my little ones immensely. But as I recall, my newborns, both my first born, a daughter, and my second, a son, did a whole lot of sleeping. Unless, of course, you were trying to sleep. Then they needed your attention.
And attention, they got. They were so small, so fragile, so dependent. Breathing, and sleeping, and messing diapers – that, they could do all by themselves. But beyond that, they needed Mom and Dad. And grandparents, uncles, and aunts. But my newborns were blessed to have plenty of help.
Still, I marveled at them. Just like Lao Tzu. Their bones and muscles, soft and weak. But I loved how tightly they could wrap their little fingers around my finger. And their cries! I thought they could wake the dead. We wanted so much to solve whatever little problem was causing them to scream their little heads off all day or all night. Fed and changed; what more do you need, little one? But they never did get hoarse. Lao Tzu calls that harmony. Harmony? Hmmmmmmm.
And Lao Tzu won’t let me overlook that erect penis. Nothing sexual intended. Not by the newborn. Not by Lao Tzu. And not by me. Lao Tzu only points it out, as a display of the newborn’s vital power. I thought the fact that it could scream its head off all day and night, proved that point nicely.
But Lao Tzu is really talking about being in harmony with the Tao. He is likening it to a newborn child. He says the Master’s power is like this. Remember, the Master is a whoever. Whoever is in perfect harmony with the way things are. The eternal reality. The Tao.
How does the Master display that power? By letting all things come and go, effortlessly, and without desire. Just like that newborn. What is it they want? What do they desire? And what effort do they put forth? Does a newborn really expect anything? Any kind of result? Can a newborn experience disappointment? Ah, the spirit of a newborn. A spirit that can never experience disappointment; a spirit that can never grow old.