Of Cycles And Being And Non-Being

Return is the movement of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.

All things are born of being.
Being is born of non-being.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 40, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

We have talked a lot, before, about how the Tao is like water. It is both fluid and ubiquitous. It is content with the low places. Thus, humble. It is soft; yet, it overcomes the hardest thing. Today, Lao Tzu describes the movement and the way of the Tao as cyclical. Always on the move, forward, never looking back; yet, always returning to the beginning again. Just like Spring yields to Summer. Summer yields to Autumn. Autumn yields to Winter. And Winter will yield to Spring again. Night and Day follow each other, each yielding to each other in their time. We see it as we observe the cycle of the Moon from New to Full. We observe it as we see how life renews itself through birth, growth, maturity, death, decay, new birth, and so on… This is an easy way to explain the operation of the Tao.

But how do we explain being and non-being? Yu and Wu in ancient Chinese philosophy. To say that all things are born of being, this would seem to go without saying. Who disputes that? But where does being come from? Lao Tzu says being is born of non-being. This notion that anything can come from nothing has confounded philosophers and scientists for ages. But Lao Tzu doesn’t set out to prove that it is true. He merely states it as fact. Being has to come from nothing. How else could it come to exist? What precedes existence, if it isn’t non-existence?

A couple chapters from now we will look deeper into origins. Maybe then, we will better understand the relationship of non-being with being. Until then, think of yin and yang. How they complement each other. How they interact together to create balance and order and harmony in our Universe.

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