Being Is More Fundamental Than Becoming

Every being in the Universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors the Tao.

The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them, cares for them,
comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao
is in the very nature of things.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 51, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, we talked about giving ourselves up to whatever the moment brings. And we were saying that being aware and accepting of the reality that our death is imminent was key to freedom. Of course, I understand that the first objection someone may have to this notion is that their own death is not really imminent. Yesterday, I really should have addressed that objection. So, today, I am starting with that.

What I am wanting you to do is to imagine that you have just been informed that your death is imminent. Plenty of people get that “opportunity” in their life. To know that your death is imminent, once you get over the shock, is liberating. You are free to do all those things you never let yourself do; because you now know that your time is limited. That is what Lao Tzu is wanting us to experience. That liberation. “But!” You quickly chime in, “My death really isn’t imminent. What then?”

What then? Well, the point is to live your life as if that was the reality. We live our lives like we have all the time in the world. But that, my friends is living in an illusion. You don’t have all the time in the world. Time, itself, is an illusion we create as we live out our lives. Live out your life, giving yourself up to whatever the moment brings. That is the only way to truly live in reality. In reality, you only have the present moment.

Okay, those three paragraphs really should have been included in yesterday’s commentary; and, I am glad to have that cleared up. The good news, for me, is that it really does tie into today’s chapter; where Lao Tzu says that every being in the Universe is an expression of the Tao.

What does he mean when he says that? How are you and I expressions of the Tao? This is how Lao Tzu explains it for us. Each of us springs into existence, unconscious, perfect, and free. While none of us ever asked to be born. Here we are. We arrive on the scene totally unconscious of what our purpose for being is. We are, nonetheless, perfectly at one with the Tao at that moment. And, we are born free; like some of us will never experience real freedom again, sadly. Whether we will ever return to that primal state of perfect freedom depends on each one of us.

Lao Tzu says that every being in the Universe takes on a physical body and lets circumstances complete them. This is the reality. A lot of the time, we humans, think otherwise. We, maybe, are the one set of beings in the Universe that choose to contend with the notion that we should let circumstances complete us. But they do, whether we are conscious of it, or even willing to acknowledge it.

That letting circumstances complete us is still important to us. Why? Because we will never be complete without them. This is where I am thinking back to yesterday’s chapter, and giving yourself up to whatever the moment brings. That is letting circumstances complete you. Being aware and accepting. When you do that, you are spontaneously honoring the Tao. And that is when we join the chorus of every other being in the Universe.

For, you see, the Tao gives birth to all beings, including us human beings. It is the Tao that gives birth to us. It is the Tao that nourishes and maintains us, as well as, all things. It is the Tao that cares for and comforts us. It is the Tao that protects us and takes us back to itself. But, we largely don’t see “the man behind the curtain..” We sprang into our world unconscious; and, most of us stay in that state until the day we die.

My journey is about enlightenment. I want to know as I am known. And this great Tao is a mystery to me. It creates without possessing. It acts without expecting. It guides without interfering. You and I, we, are expressions of the Tao. We spontaneously honor the Tao by letting circumstances complete us. And, love of the Tao is in our very nature.

I watched a very good video yesterday that a friend of mine on tumblr, Bodhi_O’Shea, suggested I watch, after he posted it. It was all about the illusion of time. And the speaker, Julian Barbour, made a lot of very good points. But, this one really jumped out at me. “Being is, perhaps, more fundamental than becoming.” I want so very much to become. But, that has been a focus that puts off, for another day, what living in the present moment is really all about. Instead of becoming enlightened, I need to practice being enlightened.

Whatever The Moment Brings

The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to;
no illusions in his mind,
no resistance in his body.

He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 50, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

In today’s chapter, as seems to always be the case, we are continuing where we left off in the preceding chapter. Yesterday’s starting point was the idea that the Master has no mind of her own. This is what makes it possible for her to be good to, and trusting of, those who, Lao Tzu admitted, were neither good, nor trustworthy. This is the context for today’s chapter, where Lao Tzu begins with, “The Master gives himself up to whatever the moment brings.”

I said yesterday, that the Master is an extraordinary individual. See the Master so radically free to live in the present moment. Death doesn’t worry him. Not because he is ignorant of the reality of it, but because he is wholly aware of the reality of it. He knows his death is imminent.

It is that knowledge that is his springboard. It enables him to let go of everything he has been holding on to. All the illusions in his mind. All the resistance in his body. Mind and body, this is a transforming moment in the life of the Master. Being fully aware (that is mind) and fully accepting (that is body) of your own death. That, Lao Tzu is telling us, is key to giving yourself up to whatever the present moment brings.

Living in the present moment means not thinking about your actions. Not thinking about your actions? That sounds crazy! Well, hold on there. Let’s make sure we understand exactly what Lao Tzu is meaning by that. When he says, “He doesn’t think about his actions;” he goes on to explain what he means, when he says that his actions flow from the core of his being. He acts intuitively. He doesn’t have to think about them. And, he doesn’t think about them. He doesn’t do. He just is.

When you know you are going to die (really know it, not just give mental assent to it), then, you are free to hold nothing back from life. Now you can really live life, like you have never been free to do it before. Nothing is holding you back. You are free. And, when you die (you knew you were going to), you are ready. Just like you are ready for a good night’s sleep at the end of a good day’s work.

A Mind That Is Truly Free

The Master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people.

She is good to people who are good.
She is also good to people who aren’t good.
This is true goodness.

She trusts people who are trustworthy.
She also trusts people who aren’t trustworthy.
This is true trust.

The Master’s mind is like space.
People don’t understand her.
They look to her and wait.
She treats them like her own children.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 49, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Today’s chapter is about being free. “Having no mind of your own” doesn’t mean you don’t have your own thoughts and ideas; it means you are not enslaved by them. You are free to think for yourself; but you are also free to work with other people’s thoughts and ideas, as well. No matter who or what you may encounter along your journey, there are no limits on what you can achieve.

That is what Lao Tzu means when he says that the Master is good to, and trusting of, both people who are good and trustworthy, and those who aren’t. If you limit your own goodness and trust to only those “deserving” of it, that isn’t true goodness and trust.

Perhaps this sounds like crazy talk. We have been conditioned over many years, to see being good and trusting as a reward we give only to those who are worthy. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” comes to mind.

I have said before that the Master is an extraordinary person. Extraordinary, in the sense that she understands how to be in harmony with the Tao. She is never fooled. Not once. Not twice. Not over and over again. The Master isn’t gullible at all. When she is truly good and trusting, she isn’t being taken advantage of. She is being one with the Tao, in harmony with the way things are.

And that isn’t an easy thing for the majority of us to really understand. Oh, I know how to be gullible. I have been fooled over and over again. Some people simply are not good. Some people simply are not trustworthy. But that doesn’t change the natural, eternal order of the Universe, at all.

When I consider that the Master’s mind is like space, I immediately begin to envision infinitude. No limits. Not restrained by the goodness and trustworthiness, or the lack thereof, of any other being in the Universe.

That, my friends, is hard for me to understand. So I understand why people don’t understand her. Nevertheless, they do look to her and wait. You see, even though we don’t understand, we know there is greatness here.

Notice what Lao Tzu says, and what he does not say, in the sentence, “She treats them like her own children.” He doesn’t say that she treats them LIKE children. I wouldn’t care for that at all. We are adults, after all. No, she treats them LIKE HER OWN children. And, that is a big difference.

For me, my own anarchism has never been anything other than the Golden Rule. I simply treat everyone as I want to be treated. And, whether or not, they treat me well before, or after, doesn‘t matter. I will continue to maintain that that is what the art of living is really all about.

What goes around, does, in fact, come around. Maybe, you won’t always get immediate satisfaction for always being good and trusting as a practice. But I don’t think waiting for others to do the right thing is how the Tao works. The Tao works in you doing the right thing, whether or not anyone else ever does. And, if and when you ever are set free of the mindset that says, “I am just going to wait and see what everyone else does” I think you will find that other people will be waiting to see what you are going to achieve next.

Treat all people as you would your own children. I am not talking about how your parents treated you. I get that some parents were really crappy to their children. But you aren’t like that. You are better than that. Treat all people as you would your own children. Is that really so hard?

This Is More Or Less What It Is All About

In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can’t be gained by interfering.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 48, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, Lao Tzu warned us about trying too hard in our pursuit of knowledge. We can increase our knowledge at the expense of our understanding. In today’s chapter, he explains better what he is getting at.

What does the pursuit of knowledge require of you? Every day you must add something to your acquired knowledge. You must continually add more and more and more. There isn’t something inherently wrong with pursuing knowledge. We just need to understand that our knowledge will always be in part. There is always more to learn.

The practice of the Tao is a wholly different thing. Instead of adding, we are subtracting. The focus isn’t on more and more. It is on less and less. The journey’s end is to arrive at non-action. I understand that this talk of non-action seems like passivity. But things are not what they seem to be. Lao Tzu is talking about forcing things. It is that, that we are undoing, each and every day, until nothing more is forced. We let go of the need to force things, one day at a time. The end is when nothing is done and nothing is left undone. We can’t just look at the first half of the last sentence and say, “Well, Lao Tzu doesn’t want us to do anything.” We have to look at the last part, too. “Nothing is left undone.”

It isn’t passivity he is talking about. It is not forcing things. It is not interfering with the Tao. If you want to gain true mastery, it isn’t about adding more and more each day to your knowledge. It is about letting things go their own way. It is about not interfering with the natural, eternal order – the way things are.  When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The More You Know, The Less You Understand.

Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.

The more you know,
the less you understand.

The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 47, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Going to keep things brief today. My son was involved in his first car accident, in which he totaled his car. He is okay. And that is really all that matters. But it did throw me for a loop today, and I have just had to go with the flow, even when I found the current of the stream doing all sorts of crazy things today.

So, as I read through today’s chapter, my mind is wandering. It has been hard to focus on what Lao Tzu is saying today. Thankfully, this isn’t the first time that I am reading today’s chapter. That helps. I know that Lao Tzu has been stressing that we need to be content with what we already have. And one of the things that we never seem to have enough of, is knowledge.

Lao Tzu has a completely different take on this. Instead of saying, yes, go out and get more knowledge. He warns us that the more we know, the less we understand. Now, I am going to stop right there and backpedal just a little bit. Let’s make sure we are understanding what Lao Tzu is saying right here. See, understanding is the key. Just having a head full of knowledge is no guarantee that you will understand.

And we take great pains to increase our knowledge, without ever gaining any true understanding. Could it be, we really already know everything we need to know? And maybe, just maybe, we “know” far more than is evidenced by our limited understanding?

I don’t know, this chapter always comes across to me as anti-knowledge. But I think I am misunderstanding what Lao Tzu is getting at.

You don’t have to open your door to open your heart to the world. You don’t have to look out the window to see the essence of the Tao. The Master arrives without leaving. Sees the light without looking. Achieves without doing a thing.

Are we just trying too hard?

Plowshares, or Swords?

When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through fear will always be safe.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 46, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

We have been talking about the way things are versus the way things seem to be. In today’s chapter we have the stark difference between a country which is in harmony with the Tao (that would be harmony with the way things are) and a country that is going counter to the Tao (that would be the one that is succumbing to the illusion, the way things seem to be).

The greatest illusion of them all is the phantom of fear. The greatest wrong of them all is preparing to defend yourself because you have been spooked by a phantom. The greatest misfortune of them all is to consider your fellow human beings, who are your brothers and sisters, your enemies. Fear is a powerful motivator, indeed.

I want my country to be in harmony with the Tao. I read a very nice article today about all the reasons to be optimistic. I like being infused with optimism. Sometimes, even I, look at the way things seem to be, and I too, despair. Optimism is good. And there really are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. But sometimes, they are hard to see.

Still, Lao Tzu wrote this chapter, to infuse us with a sense of purpose. And, I think we need to be optimistic about our purpose.

What can one individual do, in the face of a whole country that is going counter to the Tao? Lao Tzu tells us that whoever can see through fear will always be safe.

That is about the best news that you are going to get all day. I am a whoever and so are you. Each individual out there reading this blog post today, and a whole lot of individuals that will never read it, are whoevers. And each one of us can see through the phantom of fear. It is really all an illusion. You, too, can be safe. Just as I am safe.

See through the fear. See it for what it really is. And, accept the eternal reality for what it is. The illusions that have been propping up the State for ever so long are being exposed for the frauds they are. The State is both economically and intellectually unsustainable. See beyond the illusion. See that reality. And make it a reality. Stop helping the State prop itself up via illusions. Let it come crashing down.

If you want your country to be in harmony with the Tao, don’t wait for the powerful to make it so. We don’t have that long. Make it a reality in your own life. That is your purpose. Be optimistic. You can do this. Plowshares, or Swords? You get the reality you make.

Reality Isn’t What It Appears To Be

True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present.

True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True eloquence seems to stutter.

The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 45, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

As I am writing up my commentary on today’s chapter, Veteran’s Day is not yet over. Can I just say how much I hate Veteran’s Day? It is perhaps the one day of the year that I can never wait to be over and done with. I can’t stand the worship and adoration that we pour out on our Veterans. I don’t despise our Veterans. Please don’t misunderstand me. I just think if we truly wanted to honor our Veterans we would ensure that their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, ad infinitum, never again became Veterans. It is no honor to Veterans that we glorify their “sacrifices” for our “freedom” while instigating perpetual wars to create all further wars.

That rant is over. And, I am getting to the commentary, I promise. But one further thing totally unrelated to Veteran’s Day. This whole Net Neutrality thing. And, President Obama’s impressive speech insisting that we treat the internet the way we used to treat Ma Bell. I am all for Net Neutrality. But asking for the government to make it happen will likely be the death of the Internet. The problem isn’t with too little government oversight. The problem is, and always has been, government cartelizing whole industries. If these “powerful” corporations hadn’t been enabled to be “powerful” via the heavy hand of government regulation which the corporations had a heavy hand in crafting for their purposes, we wouldn’t be having this issue today. We need a free market. We don’t have a free market. We have never had a free market. But we need a free market. We need unfettered competition. That is what we need. And that demands the end of the FCC and every other government bureaucracy that impedes innovation and competition. When I think about how much further we would be as far as technology is concerned, if not for the interference of the State, I just want to scream. You think we have come such a long way in the last 40 years? We have taken baby steps, when we could have been taking actual giant leaps. And if President Obama gets what he wants, the baby won’t be walking anymore. It will be crawling.

Okay, enough ranting. That was me sinking in despair. The chapter quote, today, helps me rise back to the surface. It reminds me that things are never what they seem to be. Yesterday, we were talking about being content with what we have and rejoicing in the way things are. And Lao Tzu said to us, “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” I said that word “realize” means “to make it a reality”. And I think that was a very good thing of me to say. *pats myself on back

But then we have the news of the last 2 days, with the “Regulator In Chief” wanting to cripple the internet, and our “Worship of Veteran’s” Day, I just thought it would be helpful to talk about how we might go about “realizing” or “making it real.”

First off, for all my friends out there that are getting ready to message me to tell me that President Obama’s intentions aren’t to cripple the internet, I just want to say that the streets of Hell are paved with good intentions. So, unless you are wanting to live there, your good intentions matter not at all. Personally, I’d prefer not to live in Hell on Earth. No matter how well the roads are paved.

Okay, seriously, rant over.

The way things seem to be. That is the illusion that deceives you and me, daily. It is the reason that we think something is lacking. It is the reason that true perfection seems imperfect. It is the reason that true fullness seems empty. It is the reason that true straightness seems crooked, that true wisdom seems foolish, and that true eloquence seems to stutter. That is what we are up against. It is hard, when the illusion is so very plain for us to see, to see beyond it. To see that I am perfectly myself, already. And, to be fully present.

So, how do we do it? How do we get to that place of being fully present and perfectly ourselves. If we don’t want to be bamboozled by the illusion any longer, we simply must accept the reality that we have already arrived. We can’t go on with this mindset that we are in the process of becoming. That it is just around the corner. Not there yet, but soon. No, we have to accept the reality that we are who and what we are, right now. If that seems imperfect or empty, crooked, foolish, or, I don’t know, like I was stuttering, sorry. Reality isn’t what it appears to be.

That is why the Master allows things to happen. And can shape events as they come. She simply steps out of the way and lets the Tao speak for itself. If you are looking for the magic wand that you can wave and make it all happen. There it was. I just waved it.


Rejoice! The Whole World Belongs To You.

Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness; which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive?

If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 44, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

After my rant yesterday, I think today’s chapter is just what I needed to read. It helps me to put things into further perspective.

What Lao Tzu is doing with these rhetorical questions, as with all of his rhetorical questions, is to get us to see clearly that the way things seem to be is all an illusion. That there is an eternal reality in which we need to center ourselves. Yes, this is the same message that he keeps repeating throughout the Tao Te Ching, but even though I have been cycling through these chapters daily for years now, I still need this. So, I hope you, my readers, see the benefit as well.

With the illusion, we are made to believe that chasing after fame and integrity, money and happiness, success and failure, is all there is in life. But when you see the illusion for what it is, you realize what is actually important, what is of actual value, and how destructive the illusion actually is. We don’t have to choose between fame and integrity. Money doesn’t buy happiness. And the illusory ladder of success that prompts us to hope for success while fearing failure is all a great distraction from the art of living.

If we want to experience true fulfillment, we must let go of trying to find it in others. If we want to experience true happiness with who we are, we need to give up this idea that it all depends on just so much money. Others are going to disappoint you. That is always going to be the case. You can’t depend on them. You can depend on yourself. And, you will never have enough money. The more you get, the more you will want. I know this is true. But it is only in choosing to live my life free of the desire for acceptance from others, and the desire for money, that I have found true contentment.

We simply must be content with what we have. You can’t say, well, tomorrow I will be content. By next week, next month, or next year, it will happen. Or, once I have saved up enough for retirement, then I can be content. Today, you can be content. Today, is the only day you can be content. Be content with today. Right now, with who you are and what you already have.

Lao Tzu tells us to rejoice in the way things are. That is the eternal reality. The way things are. Not the way things seem to be. Or, the way things may yet be. But, the way things are today. Rejoice! Realize there is nothing lacking. I have said it before and I will say it again. That word “realize” means “make it a reality”. You have the power in yourself to make it a reality that there is nothing lacking in your life. And, the whole world belongs to you. This is a transformed life. It is your life. Make it so.

Don’t Do It. Don’t Even Speak Of It.

The gentlest thing in the world
overcomes the hardest thing in the world.
That which has no substance
enters where there is no space.
This shows the value of non-action.

Teaching without words,
performing without actions:
That is the Master’s way.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 43, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, I tried tackling the very mysterious, as we took a look at a creation myth story from the Tao Te Ching. Today, I think my job is a whole lot easier. Today, we are talking ,once again, about the value of non-action.

Lao Tzu begins by talking about the eternal reality. He says that the gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world. And, that which has no substance enters where there is no space. But how does this show the value of non-action?

I am glad you asked. Wu-wei, which is the principle of non-action, is fundamental to Taoism. Often the best solution is not to act at all. Or when action is needed, to do as little as possible. I like to think of the Tao as the Invisible Hand of the free market. Because I am a free market anarchist, I am opposed to interfering with that invisible hand. Most things in the world correct themselves, given time. But we get impatient, don’t we? We get in a hurry. The Tao will take too long. But, when we interfere, we only make things worse.

The “powerful”, in particular, like to interfere. It is their modus operandi. Their excuse for being needed. And they are empowered by us going along with their hare-brained schemes. Far from ever actually solving problems they only make greater problems; and, then they will insist that gives them all the more reason to interfere more. “We just didn’t do enough.”

When the Tao is interfered with, it is like trying to overcome the hardest thing by being harder. Trying to force something of substance where there is no space. Nature’s way is self-evidently the best approach to handling difficulties. When you encounter something that is hard, be gentle. That is stepping around the difficulty. There are examples of this throughout nature. We just don’t take the time, or make the effort, to learn the lessons that nature is teaching us. Nature doesn’t act. It just is. Trying to force your way into a space that is already full, makes no sense at all. So, why do it?

I know that the first time I heard of this principle of non-action, that I thought it was speaking of passivity, or surrender. But, I came to realize that was just the way things appeared. The way things seem to be. The eternal reality is something far different. People with power need excuses to wield power. If there aren’t ready excuses, they’ll manufacture some. But non-action isn’t passivity or surrender. What it is, is the patience to wait for the outcome. The Tao has everything under control. The Universe only seems to be chaotic and without order. That is the illusion. But the reality is that we do live in an ordered Universe, governed by universal laws. When things are chaotic, it is only because we have been interfering with the natural order. Left to itself, the Tao always balances things out. Which is all well and good, if you want things to be balanced out. But what if you want imbalance? What if you thrive on disparity?

I have come to realize that there are always going to be some people who will never want to leave things to the Tao, because it upsets their apple cart. In a free market, the Tao takes from what is too much and gives to what is not enough. That is the reality of a free market. In spite of all the rhetoric to the contrary from vested interests that will have you believe that only by interfering with that invisible hand can we make sure that the rich don’t just get richer while the poor get poorer. The reality is and always has been that it is because of interference that imbalance and disparity is the norm. Even now, many will insist that things would only be much worse if we truly had a free market. “The problem isn’t that we over-regulate, the problem is that we regulate too little.” And even those politicians that cry out for deregulation are still not wanting to have a free market. They just want to tweak a little here and there, and leave the government still firmly entrenched in the market.

But I will continue to insist that non-action, having the patience to wait for the outcome, is the only way to truly foster peace, harmony, and happiness. We simply must trust that the Tao has things under control; and is governing the Universe towards harmony. I don’t think I can stress this too much. Problems we perceive as demanding our attention are often merely phases on the way to a good outcome, and in no need of our meddling. The law of unintended consequences comes to mind right here. How can we be sure that we are contributing to a solution when we don’t even know what would happen if we left things alone? Good intentions, my own Dad always was telling me, may pave the streets of Hell, but, they are a poor measure of whether you did your job right.

I know that someone right now is thinking of all sorts of situations where we need to take action, and quickly. Like, for instance, to save lives, or to avoid a disaster. I am not going to deny this. But I am wary of these excuses, since the powers that be will always use excuses like these to justify everything that they do. They become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Ultimately, we humans have a tendency to regard ourselves a bit too highly. It is nothing short of hubris for us to think that nothing would happen, at least nothing good, without our intervention. And that hubris, pride, will likely be our undoing.

Still, for all my ranting today, Lao Tzu doesn’t just talk about the value of non-action. He also talks about teaching without words. Oops! Maybe I should have been paying more attention. Why do we talk so much? Because we are always feeling the need to explain our actions. We have to defend our actions, because if we had only avoided those actions in the first place, they wouldn’t be needing defending.

This is all so obviously not the way of the Master, who teaches without words. How does the Master accomplish this? Seriously, I need to know. And, here it is. Because the Master performs without actions. By letting the Tao do its work, there is nothing that needs to be said. You can see the results without any explanation necessary.

A One And A Two And A Three

The Tao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things.

All things have their backs to the female
and stand facing the male.
When male and female combine
all things achieve harmony.

Ordinary men hate solitude.
But the Master makes use of it,
embracing his aloneness,
realizing he is one with the whole Universe.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 42, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Chapter 42 in the Tao Te Ching is another creation myth. The last time I wrote about this chapter, I was not feeling like trying to go into what is the One and the Two and the Three. I wanted to make it as easy as one, two, three. And it really is that simple. But, I didn’t think I could make it as simple as it was. Still, I had a friend point out to me that I should not be reluctant to discuss these elements of the creation myth. For they point to something that it is important to understand about the Tao, and the art of living in our world. So, today, I decided to tackle it for my readers.

I am looking first at where Lao Tzu says: “The Tao gives birth to One.” And I immediately accept that the One is a reference to the Tao. So, the Tao gives birth to the Tao. Can that be right? It comes back to understanding the being and non-being that Lao Tzu has referred to before. Since “all things are born of being” and “being is born of non-being” I begin to understand how it can be that the Tao gives birth to the Tao. Let’s take a look at a snippet from another Taoist text, this one by another founder of Taoism, Chuang Tzu. He says: “At the beginning, there is Nothing. No existence. No names. Where One rises up, there is One but it doesn’t have a form yet.” This, to me, speaks of non-being. An aspect of the Tao. Non-being is nothing. This is the way it was at the beginning. There was no existence. No names. Just nothing. But nothing rises up. Or, non-being. That is the initial One. Formless and nameless. Still, it is the Tao.

Non-being gives birth to being. Now we have two. This is yin and yang. Still, this duality is One in unity. There is the Tao that gives and the Tao that receives. It has both of those aspects working together simultaneously. There isn’t one without the other.

The Two gives birth to Three. Now it gets a bit tricky. What is this Three? I believe it is a third aspect or element of the one Tao. We have non-being. We have being. And the third aspect is energy. The life force. Yin and yang combine, and like the splitting of an atom, produces energy.

These three elements, or aspects, of the Tao give birth to all things. Call it a big bang if you like. Make of it whatever you want. Use it, if it helps you to understand. And let it go, if it doesn’t.

Now, what does Lao Tzu mean by these next lines: “All things have their backs to the female and stand facing the male. When male and female combine all things achieve harmony.” Once again, we are having a reference to yin and yang. How is it that the life cycle continues. All things need to combine yin and yang, female and male, to achieve harmony.

But what do the next lines have to do with any of this? “Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole Universe.” Yesterday, we were talking about extraordinary and ordinary individuals. Actually, the translation used the words superior and average. But it means the same thing. What makes the Master extraordinary is his willingness to embrace his solitude, his aloneness. It is in doing this that he realizes (or makes reality) that he is one with the whole Universe. We are all one with the Tao. The Tao is nothing and everything. And in the Tao we are nothing and everything. Ordinary men can’t tolerate being alone. They hate solitude. But, it is in solitude that we come to realize that we are not alone. We are not separate beings. We only appear to be separate beings. We are all one with the Tao.