The great Way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Tao.
When rich speculators prosper
while farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class
is extravagant and irresponsible,
while the poor have nowhere to turn –
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 53, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I read a great article today that was posted by moralanarchism which he posted from lewrockwell.com. It was a piece written by Murray Rothbard about none other than Lao Tzu, who I have said before was the original libertarian. He also referred to another “father” of philosophical Taoism, Chuang Tzu, who Rothbard referred to as the first anarchist. I did reblog the article in its entirety and recommend it highly to all of you.
I do agree with Rothbard’s assessment of the two legendary men. And I need to add to my posting list parables that Chuang Tzu wrote. He took what Lao Tzu wrote about laissez faire to its logical conclusion. I have a handful of philosophers that have shaped my thinking into what it is today. These two are the ancient ones.
Now, to today’s chapter, which of course, ties into that article by Rothbard. Most of my friends really don’t seem to get me. I think my peculiar way of thinking about things they find amusing. And, I, for my part, prefer amusing them to disgusting them. So, it’s all good. Still, I admit that I do find it somewhat of a nuisance that they don’t understand and appreciate anarchism quite in the way that I do.
When I talk to one of my friends in real life, for even the least amount of time about anarchism, I will inevitably get dismissed as promoting chaos. That is, as any of my regular readers already know, about as far from the truth as anyone could ever imagine. Lao Tzu identifies what real chaos actually is in today’s chapter. And I am not ashamed to share with you that chaos is always sanctioned by the State. It isn’t something that is a result of anarchism.
But enough preliminaries, Lao Tzu makes it good and clear: “When rich speculators prosper while farmers lose their land; when government officials spend money on weapons instead of cures; when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible, while the poor have nowhere to turn – all this is robbery and chaos.”
And every one of these is State-sanctioned. That so many of my friends and acquaintances in real life ignore or deny that this is exactly the world we are living in today, while at the same time insisting on fearing an imaginary evil if we abolished the State, makes me shake my own head in disbelief and bewilderment. If little ol’ me can see the truth right before our eyes, anyone should be able to. Sometimes, I chalk it up to willful ignorance. Those are in my less charitable moments. Can anyone have so little imagination that they are incapable of seeing what a better world we could have? It is small wonder to me that Lao Tzu chose to retreat from society, getting out while he could, riding out of town on an ass.
Lao Tzu understood my own frustration. He said, “The great Way is easy, yet people prefer the side paths.” Why is that? Why do we insist on making our living so very difficult, when it can and should be so very easy? This is the question with which I am obsessed. Still, I don’t own an ass. So, I don’t expect to be riding out of town in the foreseeable future.
You guys are stuck with me. With me, and all my crazy notions. And, I only have two more things to say to you today about today’s chapter. This is what Lao Tzu wanted to impress on us today. We need to be aware when things are out of balance. All you really should have to do is look around at how the powerful are operating in the world today, to see that things are way out of balance. But I can’t make you see it. I can’t make you aware of it. Oh, I can point at it and say, “Look there, can’t you see?” But you have to have eyes to see with, and ears to hear with. If the illusion has you so blind and so deaf that you can’t discover it for yourself, then my words are not going to matter.
But I wish they did matter. I wish you were aware. Because, then you would center yourself, and stay centered, within the Tao. Why is this so important? Because, I agree with Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. We can’t count on the powerful to straighten up and fly right. But we can take care of our own selves. And, as each one of us does, our whole world will be transformed.