For governing a country well
there is nothing better than moderation.
The mark of a moderate man
is freedom from his own ideas.
Tolerant like the sky,
all-pervading like sunlight,
firm like a mountain,
supple like a tree in the wind,
he has no destination in view
and makes use of anything
life happens to bring his way.
Nothing is impossible for him.
Because he has let go,
he can care for the people’s welfare
as a mother cares for her child.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 59, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Even More Unsolicited Advice
Well, here we are at Day Three of my offering unsolicited advice to President-Elect Trump on the art of governing. On Day One, Lao Tzu encouraged someone aspiring to be a great leader to learn to follow the Tao, and stop trying to control. If you let go of fixed plans and concepts, you will find the world is fully capable of governing itself. On Day Two, Lao Tzu presented the president-elect with two very opposed methods for governing a country, it is a choice between tolerance and repression. Beware of the will to power. When you let it be in charge, the higher your ideals, the lower the results will be. The will to power thrives on repression. That is why the admonition to not try to do anything, and instead, let things go their own way, is preferable.
I didn’t say it yesterday, but tolerance has gotten a bad rep in the last few years. That is because so many who are the most vocal advocates for tolerance are some of the least tolerant people. They have fallen prey to the will to power. They try to make people tolerant. Great leaders understand, if you want people to be tolerant, there is really only one effective way of achieving that goal, content yourself to be an example of tolerance. To that end, Lao Tzu uses another word, today, which has gotten a really bad rep over the years, moderation. He tells us, “For governing a country well there is nothing better…”
Moderation is something I would like to reclaim as good; so, let’s take a look at the marks of a moderate person, and (dare I hope) maybe the newly elected president will be like this.
The first mark is freedom from your own ideas. That word, freedom, is so important, because it isn’t like the moderate person doesn’t have their own ideas. Of course, they have their own ideas. No one, least of all our president-elect, has gotten where they are without having some ideas. But, we are talking about governing a country, now. And, because governing with repression is something we really want to avoid, because it doesn’t work, not being a slave to your own ideas, your own desires, is going to be key to governing well. Moderation is freedom. And, moderation is the practice of tolerance.
So, the tolerance you will need to practice must be as limitless as the sky. It will also have to be all-pervading, like sunlight. That isn’t to say you are wishy-washy, or a milquetoast. Ignore those who accuse you of this, they are only agents of the will to power, trying to force you into forcing things. Be firm, resolute, like a mountain; while at the same time, being supple like a tree in the wind. You will bend, but you won’t break.
You are selecting advisers right now. And, being as I have appointed myself as an adviser, I suggest you look for those who will be just as tolerant as you need to be. You want the people under you, in authority, to have the same freedom from their own ideas. For, if they, or you, have some fixed and planned destination in view, such that you are a slave to it, you won’t be free to make use of anything that life happens to bring your way. That is what freedom affords you.
Nothing will be impossible for you, if you have this freedom. You will be able to care for the people’s welfare, just as a mother cares for her children. All because you have let go-of the need to control, of the need to force things, of the need to dominate, of the need to intervene and interfere. Nothing will be impossible for you, and the world will govern itself.