Imagine a Country Governed Wisely

If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don’t waste time inventing
labor-saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren’t interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don’t go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing
and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 80, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Imagine a Country Governed Wisely

Today, we finish out our week with the penultimate chapter of the Tao Te Ching. In it, Lao Tzu invites us to let our imaginations run wild. In fact, Red Pine’s translation has Lao Tzu saying, “Imagine a small state with a small population” – today’s chapter has always reminded me of Tolkien’s Shire, with the simple hobbit-folks tending to, and minding, their own business; unconcerned with the goings on beyond their idyllic homeland.

Imagine enjoying the labor of your own hands so much, you would consider it a waste of your time to invent labor-saving machines.

Imagine so dearly loving your home, you wouldn’t even be interested in traveling.

Imagine the few wagons and boats not ever going anywhere, an arsenal of weapons that nobody ever has to use.

Imagine people enjoying their food, and taking pleasure in being with their families.

Imagine spending weekends working in your garden, and delighting in the doings of your neighborhood.

Imagine being so close to the next country that you can hear its roosters crowing, and its dogs barking, but you are content to die of old age, without ever having gone to see it.

Now, stop imagining. And, start living your life as if you were content. Maybe, just maybe, through practice, and habit, you will find you are content with your simple and ordinary life.

It worked for me. Perhaps, it will work for you, too!

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