Somebody Save Us From the Merely Ordinary

The Master doesn’t try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.

The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.

The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.

Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 38, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Somebody Save Us From the Merely Ordinary!

Somebody save us from the merely ordinary!

We have been talking, for days now, about how the powerful refuse to center themselves in the Tao, and remain centered in it. How sweet it would be if they would, if they could, be like the Master. Not trying to be powerful, and deriving true power for themselves (and the rest of us) because of it. Doing nothing, like the Tao, and leaving nothing undone.

Alas, they are merely ordinary. They never have enough power, so they always keep reaching for more. And, they always have to be doing something; intervening, interfering, forcing things, trying to dominate, trying to control. No matter how many things they do, they always leave many more undone. “Keep electing us, we still have plenty left to do.”

Some of the ordinary are kind, or just, or moral. And, sometimes they really do have the best of intentions. But, when they do something the results are always, how shall I phrase this – less than optimal. Something is always left undone. Sometimes, many things. And, when no one responds to their “good deeds” they always roll up their sleeves and apply even more force.

This is the problem when the Tao is lost, or simply ignored. Goodness may appear for a time, until it is shown to be lacking in the “effectiveness” department. Then morality rears its ugly head for awhile. But, finally, things devolve until all we have left is ritual. Why, again, are we still doing the things we are doing. These things that have been proven, time and time again, not to work? Oh, that is just the way we have always done things.

That, is the cause of the chaos in which we presently find ourselves. This is why I stated the obvious right in the beginning. “Somebody save us from the merely ordinary!” Guess who that somebody has to be. Don’t look to the ordinary to suddenly become extraordinary. It is going to take each of us, becoming a master at centering our own selves in the Tao, to extricate ourselves from this present danger.

Masters concern themselves with the depths, not the surface; with the fruit, not the flower. Masters have no will of their own. They simply dwell in reality. They have let go of all illusions.

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