True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.
The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.
The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 81, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Am I Governing Myself Wisely?
Yesterday, I spent my time talking about how and why we are not content. I blamed it on how we are governed. After all, Lao Tzu told us, “If a country is governed wisely, its inhabitants will be content.” But, while that is true when talking about a whole country, we, as individuals, can’t be blaming our lack of contentment on something outside of ourselves, something quite beyond our own control. After all, didn’t Lao Tzu just get finished saying in the preceding chapter, “If you blame someone else, there is no end to the blame”? So, when considering whether or not we are being governed wisely, the question of self-government needs to be addressed. Am I governing myself wisely? That is our question for today.
Here, for the last time, Lao Tzu brings in the Master, as our example for how to be content with our simple and ordinary lives. A wise and virtuous person, Lao Tzu insists, has no possessions.
Now, Lao Tzu does not mean we need to give everything away, and live like hermits. He is concerned with what possesses us. Those are our possessions. It is the things we desire, things we can’t do without, that have a strong hold on us, making us their slave. You won’t be content, can’t be content. How could you be? Always wanting more, more. Never satisfied. Never having enough.
Wise and virtuous people find true contentment in the only place it could ever be found. Inside themselves. The more they do for others, the happier they are. The more they give to others, the wealthier they will be.
This isn’t a sacrifice of self. It is the realization of your true self. Wise and virtuous people nourish themselves as they nourish others, by not forcing. They lead others, by not dominating.
And, there we have it. All finished with another cycle through the Tao Te Ching. It sure wasn’t eloquent. And, I haven’t set out to prove any point. I have just come to know, and I hope you have come to know, intuitively — this is truth, this is wisdom.
Thanks for coming along on the journey with me. Tomorrow, we will start it all over again, with chapter one.