Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value?
Avoid what others avoid?
Other people are excited,
as though they are at a parade.
I alone don’t care,
I alone am expressionless.
Like an infant before it can smile.
Other people have what they need.
I alone possess nothing.
I alone drift about,
like someone without a home.
I am like an idiot, my mind is so empty.
Other people are bright; I alone am dark.
Other people are sharp; I alone am dull.
Other people have a purpose; I alone don’t know.
I drift like a wave on the ocean.
I blow as aimlessly as the wind.
I am different from ordinary people.
I drink from the Great Mother’s breasts.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 20, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
The other night on Tumblr, I got a message from @bodhioshea asking me to please summarize what I think time is. I said that I think time is a useful construct. And something to the effect that past and future are meaningless. One being no more and the other never being. Or something like that. At least that is how I would respond now. And that is why living in the present moment is really the only thing that is important, since, in reality the present moment is all that exists. Anyway, I got an interesting response from @liarsandbullies that I would like to talk about today. “Living in the moment is almost impossible in the modern world. A luxury that few can afford.”
I was thinking of that response throughout my day as I was thinking about today’s chapter from the Tao Te Ching, and what we have been talking about all along on our journey through it. It is my contention that what Lao Tzu is teaching us is that there is an eternal reality which we, in the modern world have lost touch with. We aren’t living in harmony with it. And Lao Tzu has spent a great deal of time discussing the consequences of us losing touch with reality. Lots and lots of problems in the world today. And I think they can all be tied to the fact that we have forgotten the Tao.
So, I was just wondering if it is true that living in the moment is almost impossible in the modern world. And, is it true that living in the moment is a luxury that few can afford. What is truth? Well, I would say that truth is very different from the illusion that we have grown accustomed to in our modern world. While I would agree that it is almost impossible in the modern world to live in the present moment. That is only because we have made it that way. It is only a luxury, because few are willing to pay the cost associated with it. But I don’t find it a luxury, at all. I am living in the present moment in this modern world. I am not dwelling on the past or worried about the future. Today has plenty to keep me occupied. And, I am not a wealthy man; so, my life of leisure is not the result of having a nest egg tucked away that I can draw on. I am just making a conscious choice each and every day to live within my means today and every day.
And, I think of this very personal chapter by Lao Tzu today. It seems weird and out of place at first glance. Nothing like he wrote before or after. I counted twelve times he uses the personal pronoun, I, in this chapter. Evey time I encounter this chapter it reads like a crisis of faith or a dark night of the soul. Or maybe a bout of depression.
But I think Lao Tzu is living in the present moment. That is what he is displaying for us. Often, we make things quite difficult for ourselves. Living isn’t an art. It is drudgery. I know far too many people who are dwelling in the past, or worried about the future. That isn’t healthy living. And, it is not the path to contentment.
What advice does Lao Tzu have for us, today? We can learn a lot from the conversation he was having with himself as he mutters to himself off in some dark corner. Stop thinking, and end your problems. What difference does it make whether you say yes or no? What difference does it make whether you succeed or fail? Must you value what others value? Avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous!
That is Lao Tzu laying it all out for us. He is being remarkably human today. We over think things. We spend countless hours struggling with the choice between yes and no. And, we insist on climbing that ladder which Lao Tzu has warned us already, offers us the same dangers whether we succeed or fail. We simply don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
In the rest of the chapter Lao Tzu comes to the realization that he is different; and, different is good. Vive la difference!
Do you ever feel like you are alone in the Universe? I know I do, sometimes. Other people are excited like they are at a parade. I alone don’t care and am expressionless. Other people have what they need. I alone possess nothing, just drifting about. I’m like an idiot, my mind is so empty. Other people are bright and sharp and have a purpose. I alone am dark and dull and don’t know. I am drifting like a wave on the ocean. I am blowing about as aimlessly as the wind.
Yes, I am different from other people; but, then again, other people aren’t drinking from the Great Mother’s breasts.