Getting Back to the Root

The heavy is the root of the light.
The unmoved is the source of all movement.

Thus the Master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views,
she stays serenely in herself.

Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 26, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Getting Back to the Root

Last week began and ended with us talking about the ungraspable, dark and unfathomable, Tao; before time and space were, beyond is and is not. And, in between, we talked about being content with being less; for it is only then, we can become more. In my commentary on Friday, I quoted a few of the Chinese Taoists. One of them, Sung Ch’ang-Hsing, said of the Tao, “We would do better returning to the root from which we all began.” Getting back to the root is our segue into today’s chapter, where Lao Tzu, again, talks about what is beyond is and is not.

“The heavy is the root of the light. The unmoved is the source of all movement.” This statement has “beyond is and is not” written all over it. And, I know how daunting that makes “returning to the root from which we all began”. But, you don’t have to make it so. It is so much better, so much simpler, to just let it happen. That was what Lao Tzu was talking about in those “in between” chapters last week.

How do they do it? That sounds vaguely familiar. But, Lao Tzu points at the Master for a reason: To be our example.

“Thus the Master travels all day without leaving home.” Yes, more is and is not. No matter where you are, however near or far you roam, “however splendid the views”, stay serenely in yourself. That old adage, “Home is where the heart is” is apt, here.

In the last chapter, Lao Tzu called humankind one of the four great powers. That makes us lords. So, today, Lao Tzu asks the question, “Why should the lord of the country flit about like a fool?”

Why, indeed? We have that which is heavy, as our root. The unmoved is, as it should be, the source of all movement. So, why would we let ourselves be blown to and fro? We would lose touch with our root. Why let restlessness move us? We would lose touch with who we are.

Why? Why? Well, if we are struggling with this very thing, if we have lost touch with our root, if we have lost touch with who we really are, it is time to get back in touch, to remember, and return to our common source. We don’t have to be blown to and fro.

Tomorrow, Lao Tzu will talk some more about what it means to be a good traveler; and along with that, what it means to be a good artist and a good scientist. We will talk about what to do if we are bad at these things, too. So, come back tomorrow.

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