Throw away holiness and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times happier.
Throw away morality and justice,
and people will do the right thing.
Throw away industry and profit,
and there won’t be any thieves.
If these three aren’t enough,
just stay in the center of the circle
and let all things take their course.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 19, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
For the last couple of days we have been talking about the reason we have trust issues. It is because we have forgotten the great Tao. Having forgotten, we lose our intuitive connection with the Tao; and then, things that used to come naturally to us, become forced and contrived, as we strive to live our lives. We can’t trust our selves. We can’t trust the people around us. Even members of our own families. Our friends seem like enemies. The reality is we have become our own enemy. This is chaos. We talked about the sense of duty that arises as we try to perform our roles. Like the roles of parents and children. I said, yesterday, that in the midst of all this chaos, there was really only one thing to do. That is to take a step back. Remember where it is that we came from. See how far we have wandered from the Tao. And start all over again. Today’s chapter is telling us how to do just that. It is time for some Spring cleaning. It is time for throwing out all the things that are going to hold us back; and doing, once again, what comes naturally.
Lao Tzu promises us that if we throw these things away, people will be a hundred times happier. They will do the right thing. And, there won’t be any thieves. This almost sounds too good to be true. But the very reason that it sounds far-fetched, just goes to show us how far we have wandered. When a whole country, or in our case, the whole world, is in the midst of chaos, it is understandable that we would balk about these throwaways. Because it means giving up control. And control is one thing we crave when life is chaotic. Giving up your need to control, both your self and others, is tough. But that is only because it is so very important. Holiness and wisdom don’t make people happy. But giving up our need to control will. Morality and justice don’t make people do the right thing. But, we are scared. Because we no longer trust people to do the right thing. But we can’t make people do the right thing. No matter how much control we try to exert over their lives. It is hard, so hard, to believe that throwing out morality and justice can do anything but make things a whole lot worse. But we have to do it. We need to return to trusting the Tao, again. Even industry and profit are means of control. We may have the best of intentions. We don’t want to promote idleness. But, why is it that people are not content with their simple, ordinary lives? Industry and profit, however well-intentioned, are not ridding us of thieves.
The solutions we have contrived to try to solve the problems that we have created for ourselves aren’t going to work. They can only be solved by returning to the Source, the great Tao. We need to start trusting again. And that trust begins with realizing that the way things are is the way things are. The way things seem to be is only an illusion. An illusion that we have created as we have wandered away from the Source. So, we need to begin by throwing away everything that props up that illusion. And then we need to, once again, return to the center of the circle. The center of the circle is that place where we learn not to meddle in the affairs of others. We begin to let all things take their own course. And staying in the center of the circle, balance and harmony return.