This Is The Supreme Virtue

Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading, and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.

-Lao Tzu-

(Tao Te Ching, chapter ten, translation by Stephen MItchell)

If we want to be in perfect harmony with the way things are, we must learn to be content with the way things are. And that isn’t going to be easy. It isn’t going to be easy, because we are so easily distracted by the illusion, how things seem to be. Reality is hidden from us. What we see all around us, what we hear, everything we can detect with our senses, is a huge distraction from what is real.

When we tune into the news we hear about passenger planes with hundreds of people on board, being shot down out of the sky. What is it that makes humans do such things to their fellow humans? I don’t think I have any answers today. All I have is questions. Why? Why?

Can you coax you mind from its wandering and keep to the original oneness? With so many distractions our minds do tend to wander. But as long as our minds are wandering, they can’t know peace. We must find a way to keep our minds fixed with unity of purpose.

Can you let your body become supple as a newborn child’s? Lao Tzu loves the metaphor of the newborn child. Their bodies so soft and supple. It speaks of fullness of life and vitality.

Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but the light? Lao Tzu has told us before that the Tao that we are searching for is to be found by looking inside ourselves for it. But over time, our inner vision has become clouded. What can we see when we look inside ourselves? We have heard it said before that the world around us is a reflection of the world in our minds. With all that is going on in the world today, our minds are murky places, indeed.

Can you love people and lead them without imposing your will? The will to power is strong among us. We like the illusion of being in control. When I first got into libertarian thinking, which was back in college, too many years ago, I would come home and have long talks with my dad. He said there was really only one problem with the way I was thinking. And that was that people just couldn’t be trusted to do what is right on their own. They must be controlled. Because they couldn’t be trusted. I asked if he could be trusted. Oh yes, he would do the right thing without needing to be controlled. And there were plenty of other people that could be as well. But not enough. Not enough. And that is still what is holding us back today. Too many people believing too many people can’t be trusted. Oh, but we are supposed to trust those holding onto the illusion of power over others. But those are just the people I don’t trust. The ones with a monopoly on violence.

Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course? That need to be in control. How can I be expected to just let events take their course? And it is vital matters we are talking about here. How can we not seek to try to control events when we are speaking of the most vital of matters. All I can tell you is that there came a moment in my life, and that moment has repeated itself over and over again since then, when I realized that the most vital matters happen with or without my consent. The sun rises and sets each day, a most vital matter, and I can do nothing about it. If I can’t control that most vital of matters, then maybe, just maybe less vital matters can get along without my intervention as well. Maybe, just maybe it is better, indeed, when I don’t try to interfere. And just let nature take its course.

Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? What it all comes down to is that we have entrenched our own minds so deeply in the illusion that we can be in control, that we can impose our own will, that we don’t understand the reality at all. To understand the way things are and to be content with the way things are, requires that we take a step back from our murky thinking. And no, that isn’t an easy thing to do. For the illusion screams out for attention everywhere we turn.

But it is just because it isn’t easy, in fact, it is the most difficult thing to achieve, that Lao Tzu calls what is required of us the supreme virtue. Giving birth and nourishing. Having without possessing. Acting without expectations. Leading, without needing to, or trying to, control.

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