The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done.
If powerful men and women
could center themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.
When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 37, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
The Goal is Freedom (From Desire)
Hmmmmmm. This chapter seems vaguely familiar. Like maybe we had a chapter, very much like this, just a few short chapters ago. No, you aren’t losing your mind. It was back in chapter 32 that Lao Tzu talked of powerful men and women remaining centered in the Tao. All things would be in harmony. The world would become a paradise. All people would be at peace…
However, there are some subtle differences in today’s chapter. Lao Tzu isn’t merely repeating himself. In chapter 32, he pondered whether the powerful could remain centered in the Tao. In today’s chapter, he wonders if they could center themselves in it, in the first place.
This speaks to my frustration, and probably the frustration of a lot of my libertarian followers. Remember, yesterday, when we were talking about letting things expand which we want to shrink, and letting things flourish which we want to get rid of. I can think of one thing I would like to shrink, if not get rid of entirely. And, letting it expand and flourish – well, my patience is being tried.
Can powerful men and women center themselves in the Tao? That isn’t a rhetorical question. Let’s consider this. Why would they want to? The Tao never does anything. And, how exactly is that supposed to result in the powerful getting more and more powerful. That is their reason for being, after all. If you aren’t willing to humble yourself, the Tao isn’t exactly on friendly terms with you. Oh, don’t get me wrong, here. It isn’t that the Tao is out to get you. The Tao isn’t like that. Vengeance? It knows nothing of that. But, when you aren’t humble, when you seek to apply force, when you want to dominate events, when you want to control things, you place yourself at odds with the Tao. You are swimming against the current, my friends.
Centering yourself in the Tao means letting the world be transformed, all by itself, in its natural rhythms. The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done. It doesn’t need any of your “help”. Here, I am thinking of Henry David Thoreau saying, “Government never furthered any enterprise but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.” But, as many of you are all too aware, powerful men and women, who set up governments to, you know, govern us, are never content to get out of the way, to let nature take its course.
And that is a damn shame, really. Because if they would, people would be content with their simple, everyday lives, in harmony, and free of desire.
You want peace? Of course, you do. Because you are sane. But those in power don’t find any profit in peace. And so they won’t allow for it. They are always stirring “stuff” up, wherever they can, all around the world.
We desire peace. They desire war. But, where there is no desire, all things are at peace.