A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent on arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.
Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this,
you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 27, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
A couple of days ago, Lao Tzu identified us humans as one of the four great powers. Yesterday, he said we were all lords of the country. Today, he expands on this theme by talking about how the Master is able to be good at what he does; and, what to do if you aren’t so good. He tells us how the Master embodies the light. And, he shares with us the great secret.
In speaking of the Master, Lao Tzu identifies certain qualities that make him good. It is because he has no fixed plans, is not intent upon arriving, lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants, has freed himself of concepts, and keeps his mind open to what is, that he is available to all people and doesn’t reject anyone. He is ready to use all situations and doesn’t waste anything.
This, Lao Tzu says, is called embodying the light. Now, I am going to assume, that like me, you want to embody the light. I have been encouraged the last couple of days by what I have been reading in the Tao Te Ching. Being identified as one of the four great powers, and being referred to as a lord of the country, has encouraged me to believe even more strongly that I, too, can become a Master at this art of living. I want, like the Master, to be a good traveler, a good artist, and a good scientist. And that means I need to start embodying the light.
When I am traveling, I need to have no fixed plans and not be intent on arriving. This is something that I have often struggled with. If I am going on a trip, I generally want to get from point A to point B as fast as I can. And that makes me unavailable to people. When situations change, all my plans get thrown off. But the Master is a better traveler than I have ever been. He leaves point A in no particular hurry. Like a good artist, he lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants. Will he get to point B today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or perhaps never?… This doesn’t concern the Master. He wants to be available to all. He doesn’t want to reject anyone. Whatever situation he may encounter along his journey, he doesn’t let any opportunity go to waste. But this is a challenge to me. I have these concepts of how my travels should be. It isn’t about the journey it is about the destination. I just want to get where I am going. But why am I in such a hurry? Why have I allowed myself to become a slave to my concepts? The Master keeps his mind open to what is. And all along, I keep worrying about what might be.
Hmmmmmm. This embodying the light is not going to be easy for me. I could get discouraged right here. And I would, if Lao Tzu didn’t share with us all, the great secret. This is good news for bad travelers, artists, and scientists, like me.
The great secret is something that we must understand, if we don’t want to get lost in our travels. And it doesn’t matter how intelligent you are. That is more good news for people like me. When you are bad, you simply need to seek out a good teacher. And remember, if you are good, to seek out someone who is bad; so you can help them along their way.
There are things that I am good at. And there are things that I am bad at. In my travels, I regularly encounter people that are good at the things I am bad at, and bad at the things I am good at. We help each other. And we get better. To me, that is what the art of living as individuals in community is all about. Being available, when you are good. And finding someone who is available, when you are bad.