Know the male,
yet keep to the female;
receive the world in your arms.
If you receive the world,
the Tao will never leave you
and you will be like a little child.
Know the white,
yet keep to the black;
be a pattern for the world.
If you are a pattern for the world,
the Tao will be strong inside you
and there will be nothing you can’t do.
Know the personal,
yet keep to the impersonal;
accept the world as it is.
If you accept the world,
the Tao will be luminous inside you
and you will return to your primal self.
The world is formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the block;
thus she can use all things.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 28, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Our Selves and the World
Just last Friday, in chapter 25, Lao Tzu told us, humankind is one of the four great powers; because, we follow (or imitate) the Earth as it follows the universe as it follows the Tao. But, that wasn’t the first time Lao Tzu talked about the importance of the relationship between ourselves and the world. Back in chapter 13, he enjoined us to see the world as ourselves, and love the world as ourselves, having faith in the way things are.
Quite frankly, the world seems kind of messed up right now. What, with millions of people worldwide taking to the streets over the last weekend. And, I am going to be honest here (why not, I always am on my blog), I am feeling rather bittersweet about this particular protest. Look, I get protesting the despicable things Trump has said. I am not about to dismiss it as “just locker room talk”, and say it doesn’t really matter. It matters, it does. But, I don’t get why these same people didn’t have it in them to protest the despicable things our leaders, and wanna be leaders, have done. I always was taught actions speak louder than words. And, it just isn’t cool, to me, that certain people seem to get a free pass when it comes to the actual killing of innocents (men, women, and children; and the poorest, the most vulnerable, at that). That kind of despicable action isn’t worthy of protest?… Just being honest, here. I don’t get it. And, I just think the world could really use some loving right now. Our selves and the world need some reconciliation.
That is where today’s chapter comes in. How can we receive the world in our arms and be like a little child again? How can we be a pattern for the world? Can we accept the world, just as it is, having faith in the way things are?
Know the male, yet keep to the female; know the light, yet keep to the dark; know the personal, yet keep to the impersonal. What Lao Tzu is doing, here, is treading that fine line of balance between yang and yin. And, right now, things in the world are way out of balance. Way too much yang, and not enough yin. We need to know yang. Definitely! We need to be knowledgeable of how destructive all yang, without any yin to balance things out, can be. More yang only takes us that much further away from the Tao. Yin brings us closer. So, keep to yin. The Tao will never leave you. It will be strong, even luminous, inside of you. And, there will be nothing you can’t do, as you return to your primal self.
Remember how the world was formed. It came from the void, out of emptiness. Just like utensils are formed from a block of wood. The Master knows the utensils, but keeps to the block.
Yes, I read through Red Pine’s translation of today’s chapter. That has become part of my routine, of late. In the commentary, SUNG CH’ANG-HSING says of that block of wood, “Before a block of wood is split, it can take any shape. But once split, it cannot be round if it is square or straight if it is curved. Lao Tzu tells us to avoid being split. Once we are split, we can never return to our original state.”
We want to be like the Master, able to use all things.