We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 11, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I have titled today’s commentary on chapter eleven “A Whole Lot Of Nothing” because everywhere Lao Tzu seems to be looking that is exactly what he sees. Whether it is the center hole in the wheel that makes the wagon move, or the emptiness inside the clay pot that holds whatever we want, or the inner space contained within the four walls we call our home; Lao Tzu recognizes that it is the seemingly insignificant, nothing, which is everything. This is the significance of how being and non-being go together.
We concentrate so much on being. And, pay so little attention to non-being. Perhaps, because we can’t begin to understand what nothing really is. We think it is merely the absence of something. But the nothing is so much more than that. Without that nothing the something is nothing. But because there is nothing, the something is, well, something.
This is one of those chapters in the Tao Te Ching in which there is so much more than meets the eye. There is a whole lot of nothing here. And that nothing is easily passed over. Much like we look at the outward appearances of people around us, and don’t really consider the person on the inside.
Spend some time today thinking about how important all that nothing that surrounds us truly is. Look for the nothing in everything you see. Realize how useful it is. And, make an effort to connect with another person today. Not just a casual encounter. But a personal one. Make genuine eye contact with them. Look beyond the reflection of your own face in their eyes. Get to know that person on the inside. They are probably worth it.