If you over-esteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
The Master leads
by emptying people’s minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion in those
who think that they know.
and everything will fall into place.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 3, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
When Everything Will Fall Into Place
We started talking about this in chapter one, just a couple of days ago. Our problem with desire. It is a fact; we are caught in desire. And, until we are free from desire, we can’t realize the mystery of the eternal Tao. We are then left with seeing only the tao, the manifestations of the Eternal in the temporal.
And, in today’s chapter, Lao Tzu shows us two more manifestations we “see”, because we are caught in desire.
It is our desire which causes us to over-esteem great men, to overvalue possessions. It isn’t wrong to esteem great men, or value possessions. It is the over-esteeming, the overvaluing, that is the problem. That is what creates the imbalance. And, what becomes manifest is people become powerless, people begin to steal.
What is to be done?
What a question! And, we may not much like the answer-caught in desire, as we are.
Here, the Master comes to our rescue, once again.
The Master leads (by example) in emptying people’s minds, and filling their cores; weakening their ambition, and toughening their resolve. Helping people lose everything they know, everything they desire; and creating confusion in all those who think they know.
What is happening, here, is a turning things inside out, and topsy-turvy. Everything you think you know needs to be let go. That needs to be emptied. But, emptying is always followed by filling. Who, and what, we are at the very core of our being, our heart, is spontaneously filled. To know (intuitively) we don’t know. To lose everything we desire, all ambition weakened. And, have that ambition, focused on outward things, replaced with a toughened, inner resolve.
The problem with our desire isn’t that we have desires, it is that we are caught in it. Like being in a trap, a prison cell, a slave. We are mastered by our desires, rather than being masters of our desires. What Lao Tzu is offering us is freedom. The goal of our journey is, just that, freedom.
And, this is the way to be free. Instead of asking, “What is to be done?”, practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.
Act without doing anything, that is how Lao Tzu described it yesterday, this practice of not-doing. Let things come as they arise, and go as they disappear. Don’t interfere. Don’t do…anything. Let. Allow. Be content. Be free. Be in awe of the spontaneous order (the way things are), as everything just falls into place.