The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The Master doesn’t take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.
The Tao is like a bellows;
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.
Hold on to the center.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 5, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Hold On to the Center!
Today, I came back to Stephen Mitchell’s translation; though Robert Brookes’ is a good one, as well. His begins, “Nature does not play favorites, it regards its creations without sentimentality. Therefore the wise person also acts in this way.” Stephen Mitchell’s admonishes us to not take sides. How quickly we forget what happens when we call some things good… The Tao doesn’t take sides. It gives birth to both good and evil.
What? No weaseling when it comes to trying to explain why there is evil in our world? This willingness to take responsibility is one of the things which attracted me to philosophical Taoism. Lao Tzu simply tells us, this is the way things are, deal with it.
And, how are we to deal with it? Lao Tzu will go into more depth in later chapters; today, he tells us, those who are wise will welcome both saint and sinner.
Then, he turns to metaphor to further make his point. The Tao is like a bellows.
What is a bellows? A bellows is a tool which contracts and expands. And, that is about the best way that I think anyone could come up with to explain the way things are in our universe.
No moral judgments. No, this is good, and this is evil. Instead, contraction followed by expansion followed by contraction followed by expansion…ad infinitum.
That bellows is empty. Just like that empty bowl, yesterday. Yet, and also just like that empty bowl, it is infinitely capable. The more we use it, the more it produces.
But, the more we talk of it, the less we understand. So, let that be enough. Don’t take sides. Don’t favor one thing over another. Hold on to the center!