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, without desire.
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)
The Power in Never Being Disappointed
Yesterday, Lao Tzu pin-pointed “letting” as the key to being in harmony with the Tao. Today, he gives us what I would say is the perfect metaphor for letting. Being in harmony with the Tao is like being a newborn child. Just think about that one for a moment.
The newborn child is powerless to intervene or interfere, to try to control, or to force things. Oh, it could be argued that the presence of a newborn child changes everything. When a newborn needs feeding, or its diaper changed, the child’s whole world seems to revolve around meeting its needs. But the newborn isn’t “doing” anything to bring about that result. The newborn is simply being what it is. So, when you think about it, this really is the perfect metaphor.
Lao Tzu describes these attributes quite vividly. Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak. That gives you the very picture of powerlessness to resist or interfere. Yet, check out how powerful a grip that little one has, when it holds on to something. Of course, it doesn’t know about the union of male and female, yet its penis can stand erect. That, for Lao Tzu, demonstrates the intensity of its vital power. And, that vital power is the kind of power we tap into, when we don’t try to be powerful. What never failed to amaze me, when I had newborns of my own, was how they never became hoarse, even though they could scream their heads off all day. Try doing that now, you will wear out your voice, and yourself, in no time. For Lao Tzu, this ability shows the completeness of its harmony with the Tao.
Can we be like newborns, in letting all things come and go, effortlessly, and without desire? Newborns can’t, and don’t, expect results. Thus, they are never disappointed. This is their vital power. This is how complete is their harmony. And, that power is available to all of us to tap into, if we will let it. When you are never disappointed your spirit will never grow old.