He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn’t know about the union
of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony.
The Master’s power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 55, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Out with the old and in with the new. Happiest of new years to all of you, my friends. Today’s chapter is appropriate for today, because we always picture the year just ended as incredibly old, while the year just begun is pictured as a newborn child. And, today, Lao Tzu returns to another of his favorite metaphors for talking about the Tao, being like a newborn child. I probably should have some kind of parental warning upfront: If you are uncomfortable with language depicting an erect penis, perhaps Lao Tzu is a little too intense for you. For those of you mature enough, please read on…
We have been talking for days, now, about being in harmony with the Tao. Today, he likens it to a newborn child.
The first stanza is where Lao Tzu talks about the power of a newborn child. Soft bones, weak muscles; yet, just feel the grip of those little fingers. It doesn’t know anything about sex; yet its penis stands erect. Lao Tzu calls that intense vital power. It can and does scream its head off all day; yet it never becomes hoarse. What’s up with that? Lao Tzu calls that complete harmony.
Everything Lao Tzu said in the first stanza pertains to the Master. Remember, the Master isn’t some ideal we can never hope to attain for ourselves. Every one of us has that potential within us. Hey, if a newborn can do this, we all can, right? The Master’s power is like the power inherent in a newborn child. His vital power is just as intense. He is in complete harmony with the Tao.
But, how does this translate to us? Having a powerful grip is good. Having an erect penis, no, I won’t go there. But, I sure would like to never get hoarse, no matter how much I scream my head off. Then again, why exactly am I screaming my head off?
No, that isn’t how it translates.
What it does mean, however, is being able to let all things come and go, effortlessly, and without desire. Okay, let me just admit it, I am not there, yet. We were talking, yesterday about letting the Tao be present in our lives. That the great way is easy. And, it is. But, I still find myself interfering, when I should be letting things come and go. And, that takes effort, hurrying things along or slowing them down. I still find myself disappointed, when things don’t go quite the way I expected. Today’s chapter is just a reminder for me that I need to look longer inside of me to find the Tao present in me. If I never expect results, I will never be disappointed. But we are talking intense vital power, here, and complete harmony. All the potential is there, inside of me. Just like with a newborn child.
But, you probably see what I did there. Talking about potential, and being there, rather than here. The Tao is present. I keep coming back to that. Yes, I still need to let the Tao be present in my own life. That way I will never be disappointed, and my spirit will never grow old.