True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.
The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.
The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 81, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Just a few chapters back, Lao Tzu said, “True words seem paradoxical.” Today, he adds that they aren’t eloquent, either. That is something of a paradox, as well. Eloquent words may fool us; but they aren’t true. They are spoken by those who feel some need to prove their point. But, Lao Tzu insists that only shows their lack of wisdom. If they were truly wise, they wouldn’t need to prove their point. I understand Lao Tzu’s point here. At least, I think I do. But I do still find myself, not being very wise, and thinking I have something to prove. I think those of us in the liberty movement always feel, at least a little, like we have our work cut out for us, trying to educate people. All the power and resources of the establishment are arrayed against us. What seems like it should be common sense is all too uncommon. That what Lao Tzu has had to teach, while seeming paradoxical, has also seemed nothing short of common sense, to me, is another thing that drew me to philosophical Taoism.
One more time, Lao Tzu uses the example of the Master to show us how to be content. He says the Master has no possessions. I don’t think he means that the Master is living in a kind of voluntary poverty. What he is referring to is an attitude. How is the Master able to be content? By choosing to be so. No matter his outward circumstances. It doesn’t matter how much money he has. It doesn’t matter how many things he owns. He has everything he needs. Because he has determined that whatever he has, is everything he needs. Whether that is nothing, or many things, or something somewhere in between. His possessions don’t define him, or his ability to be happy. What satisfies him is doing for others. I think most of us feel our happiest when we have done something for someone else. There wasn’t anything in it for us. No gain to be had. Except, of course, our increase in satisfaction, in happiness, in contentedness, with our own lives.
The Master understands that the more he does for others, the more he gives to others, the wealthier he is. I think we could learn a lot from the Master, today. We tend to measure wealth in a whole other way. But the happiest people I know, and this includes myself, aren’t the ones with the biggest bank accounts, or the most possessions. It is those of us that seemingly have the least to give. And yet, we get more wealthy the more we give. Wealth, for the purposes of being content is not the tangible thing that we have been led to believe it has to be. But, if you want to be content with your life, you need to start realizing the wealth in the intangibles of life.
To be content with your simple and ordinary life is to be nourished by the Tao. The Tao never forces. It behaves very much as a mother with her children. The Tao won’t make you take its nourishment. But it is always right there, gently nudging you with its breasts, saying “Here, drink your fill.” This is also how the Master leads and guides us. It is so very different from the domination we have come to expect from those who want to force their will on us. We have so much we can learn from the Master. About the art of leading, and about the art of living. Will we let the Master be our guide?
Today’s is the final chapter. Honestly, I haven’t kept track of how many times I have cycled through these 81 chapters. I did the math, and it appears to be something like 12 or 13 times, now. But, that hardly seems possible; and I am not finished, yet. I still have so much wealth to gain from taking these chapters daily and adding my commentary to each one. I will begin again, tomorrow, with chapter one. For my newer followers that should give each of you the opportunity to begin the journey with me, again, from the beginning.