If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve.
Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools,
chances are that you’ll cut your hand.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 74, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Of All the Things We Must Not Try to Control
There is that word, realize, again. He said it a couple chapters ago, when talking about our need to heal ourselves of all knowing. First “realize” that you are sick; then you can move toward health. Now, we need to “realize” that all things change.
This is another one of those things we all presume we all know, already. Of course, we know all things change, right? But, realizing is a very different kind of knowledge than presuming, as we have already begun to discover. For one thing, notice, he didn’t say realized. It isn’t in the past tense. It is ever in the present tense. To realize anything is spontaneous and intuitive. Realizing flows from the inner core of your being. It is intuitively knowing.
And, this is important, because realizing, as contrasted with presuming, actually has the power to make a difference in your life. If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. That means that until you realize that all things change, there will always be something you will try to hold on to.
Presuming is a disease, remember? Yeah, we need to be healed of all of that. But, oh to realize! There is where we tap into the real power of the Tao.
As long as we are holding on to something, we are fearing what the future might bring. And, fear of the future, just like the fear of anything, always brings about attempts at trying to control it.
Lao Tzu uses an interesting metaphor to illustrate this attempt at trying to control the future. He says, to do so is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place. Handle those tools, and you are likely to cut your hand.
Of all the things we must not try to control, this one is, perhaps, the most important one. Not even the Tao attempts it. And, if we are in harmony with the Tao, we won’t, either.
I can already anticipate the question forming in your mind, right about now. How do I realize this? But, I can’t help you, there. There is no “how to” when it comes to realizing. Remember, it is spontaneous. It just happens. The proverbial “light bulb” goes on. It is a “Eureka!” moment. Suddenly, you know. It was so simple. It was always so simple. How silly that we didn’t see it, before. But, how could we have seen it?
How do we get there (setting it off into some unknown future), isn’t nearly as important as what are we going to do, now that we know.
You are going to let go of everything. All things change. Let them. Relax. Breathe. The future is no longer something I am interested in trying to control. This present moment is all there is. I am not even afraid of dying. I am powerful. There is nothing I can’t achieve.