The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done.
If powerful men and women
could center themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.
When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 37, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, we were talking about the subtle perception of the way things are. The workings of the Tao are always a mystery to us. It never does do anything. Yet, while we can’t perceive its workings, we can perceive the results. Through it all things are done.
It is the its profound subtlety that confounds powerful men and women. The whole world can be transformed all by itself, in its natural rhythms. That is the way of the Tao, the way things are. Centering ourselves in the Tao means letting go of our need for control; and no longer interfering with the natural rhythms of our world.
So, as I am constantly being reminded that the 2016 presidential campaign is well underway in the United States, the trillion dollar question is, “Can powerful men and women do this? Can they center themselves in the Tao? Just imagine it. Powerful men and women forgoing their need to control, no longer interfering with the natural rhythms of our world.
Scores of the powerful are going to announce their intentions to run for the highest office in the free world. They are going to tell us exactly what they think we want to hear. And about half the voting population are probably going to fall for the lies. And no matter who gets elected, things are going to go on much the same way they have been. That is good news for those that can’t wait for the next campaign. Not such good news for the rest of us.
That last paragraph surely outs me as skeptical that powerful men and women are ever going to center themselves in the Tao. Instead of asking the question, “Can they?” I think a more important question is, “Why would we ever expect them to?” Powerful men and women have their own agenda. And that runs counter to the Tao. They are consumed by their own will to power. The danger with asking, “Can they?”, is that it holds out some glimmer of hope that if we just get the right people in power, then things will change. That is what political campaigns are all about. Whether they are offering the phantom of hope or fear, it is all just phantoms. Far removed is the reality of the corrupting influence of power. The Tao operates on an entirely different plane. When you are relying on power, you aren’t relying on the Tao.
Power doesn’t make it easier to rely on the Tao. It makes it harder. So, while Lao Tzu makes grand promises about how things would be if the powerful could or even would, the reality is that it doesn’t have to be up to them. We can not and should not be reliant on the whims of the powerful. Each new election only offers us the same old hopes and fears. And everything remains the same. Stop waiting on others to do it. You have everything you need complete in you. That is the Tao in you. Center yourself in that reality. Let go of all desires, one desire at a time, until you are free of all desires. That is the path to true contentment. A contentment with your own simple, everyday life. In harmony with the way things are.
We truly make this much harder than it actually is. We keep waiting on the powerful to do it. But they will never do it. All they desire is to maintain their power. And, even after we have let go of waiting for the right people to get into power, we still think there is something that we must do. Something, surely, must have to be done. But, Lao Tzu points us in an entirely different direction. Instead of moving toward action, Lao Tzu points us toward inaction. What do you mean? Do we do nothing? But if we do nothing, how is anything ever going to get done? Well, how does the Tao accomplish all things without doing a thing? That is a mystery, my friends. All I can show you is the results. All things do get done. Just, minus the striving, the efforts. Doing not-doing. Inactive action. It is effortless action. Stop your striving. Give up your need to control. Let go of all your desires. Only when there is no desire, will your heart be at peace.