The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.
There is no way to describe it.
All we can describe is their appearance.
They were careful as someone
crossing an iced-over stream.
Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.
Fluid as melting ice.
Shapeable as a block of wood.
Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.
Do you have the patience
to wait till your mud settles
and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting.
She is present, and can welcome all things.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 15, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I don’t want to be guilty of over esteeming the great men and women that have gone before us. But I do think there is something to be gained from esteeming them. That is why you will see me reblogging great quotes from them on my tumblr blog. Lao Tzu certainly thought there were lessons that we could learn from observing them. And he waxes poetic in describing their appearance.
It is hardly necessary for me to repeat what you can very well read in the quote above. But I too want to be as clear as a glass of water today. This isn’t just an exercise in hailing the greatness of the ancient Masters. What we are trying to do is to observe and to emulate them.
And that is a tall order. In your life you will encounter iced-over streams that will need to be crossed. You will need to be careful, or you won’t make it across. As the power of the State continues to grow, we always find ourselves in enemy territory. After all, we who value liberty, above all else, are the enemy of the State. So, we need to be alert to the situation.
But let us always seek to practice the art of being courteous. Especially while online, when our supposed anonymity often loosens our inhibitions. And we need to know when and how to yield. That is being fluid like melting ice. Just think of that melting ice; and water, a favorite metaphor of Lao Tzu’s. Yielding isn’t a sign of weakness. It is the strongest among us who know when and how to yield.
Another favorite metaphor of Lao Tzu’s is that of the uncarved block of wood. This is the state he wants us all to be in. Able to be shaped by the Tao, into whatever is required of our place in the Universe. Are you receptive to that? If we really want to be perfectly in harmony with the way things are, like the Master, nothing less is required of us.
Where we fail to be in harmony with the Tao, it is always due to a lack of patience. We must have patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear. Wait for it. Wait for it. Remain unmoving. The right action will arise all by itself. If we just wait for it.
Does that seem too hard? I know. I too, can get frustrated while waiting at a drive thru for my order. We have been trained from birth to seek fulfillment. To expect that our efforts will be rewarded. How strange is the Way of the Master. She doesn’t seek fulfillment. She doesn’t seek anything. She expects nothing. She merely lives in the present moment, and welcomes whatever comes her way.
Her Way is strange. But I want to be just like her.