When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.
Act for the people’s benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 75, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, we talked about the difference between knowing that all things change and realizing it. The difference between knowing and realizing is both profound and subtle. And, it is all the difference in the world. We talked about how to know when we have made the shift between merely knowing and actual realizing. But we didn’t talk much about how to make that transition. The reason for that is because putting these teachings into practice is so profound and subtle. It involves all that we have been talking about all along. The not-knowing knowing. The not-doing doing. The not-competing competing. Lao Tzu teaches without a teaching; meaning, he points at the truth, hints at it, over and over again; but he can never just come out and tell it to us plainly. Why is that? He answered that question in the very first chapter of the Tao Te Ching: “The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” That may be frustrating to us. But it is the way things are. If we are going to transition from merely knowing to actual realizing, it doesn’t require knowledge or doing or competing. It requires letting things come and go as they will. As long as we are interfering, as long as we are trying to be in control, we are never going make that transition. We need to let go. And that, my friends, can be the hardest thing of all.
As hard as that is for each and every one of us, you can probably imagine how very difficult it would be for the people in power: our rulers. They, more than anyone else, think they have all the answers. You can’t teach them anything. For they already know. They are the ones that can’t resist doing something. They must always be interfering with the natural order and attempting to control outcomes. And, for them, the urge to compete is most acute. As soon as one election is done they immediately begin competing in the next.
That is what today’s chapter is all about. It is the people vs. the rulers. Let us for a moment, give our rulers the benefit of the doubt; and say that they know when taxes are too high the people go hungry. And while we are at it, let us also assume that they know when the government is too intrusive, the people lose their spirit.
The problem is that merely knowing this doesn’t matter at all. It certainly doesn’t change their behavior. They need to make the transition from merely knowing to actual realizing. Because only then, will it start making a difference in how they govern.
I am just going to be honest here. I don’t hold out a shred of hope that our rulers are going to voluntarily transition from merely knowing to actually realizing. My blog isn’t for them. It is for the rest of us. Those of us that are going to have to pick up the pieces after the system inevitably comes crashing down all around us. It is we, the people, that will have to not just know, but realize these truths.
We already think we know that when taxes are too high, people go hungry. But let’s make sure that we aren’t just giving mental assent to this. People talk a decent game about taxes. I don’t know of anyone that wants their taxes to be too high. We understand that money that is taken from us, is money that we could be better spending, on ourselves and others. That is why the only taxes that anyone seems to be in favor of raising are the taxes levied on “the wealthy.” I put that in scare quotes for what I hope are obvious reasons. Many people think (mistakenly) that because “the wealthy” can afford it, no one is going to go hungry due to these taxes. So, they have already betrayed that they don’t really know when taxes are too high, people go hungry. Please, don’t send me messages here about people needing to pay their “fair” share. I put that word, fair, in scare quotes for very obvious reasons as well. The reality is that it doesn’t matter whose taxes are too high. When taxes are too high, people are going to go hungry. Why? Besides the obvious, because that is the way things are, there is what I already said earlier. Money that is taken in taxes is money that could be better (more efficiently) spent by the persons that earned that money, both for themselves and for others. There is no better example of a people who are suffering from a delusion than those that think that the government can and will provide better than we can for ourselves. Go ahead, send me your list of things that the government can provide better than we can provide for ourselves. I think it is good to confront your delusion and get made well.
Speaking of delusions, here is another one: If I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear. This is the line that propagandists have been feeding us for a very long time. They keep intruding on our freedom, insisting that if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. But I, for one, am not fully knowledgeable of all that is contained within the ever-expanding U.S. Criminal Code. The truth is that I may have plenty of things that I want hidden from the prying eyes of our rulers. Things that I don’t know have been deemed unlawful. Ignorance of the law, I have been told, is no defense. Common sense informs me that where there is no victim, there is no crime. But our prisons in the United States are filled to overflowing with “criminals” where there was no victim. So common sense isn’t going to help me to steer clear of the eye of Sauron. Ordinary people, like me, are waking up to this truth more and more each day. That is why we are losing our spirit. The government is too intrusive.
We need to transition from merely knowing to actually realizing. When those of us, that are called upon to be leaders of a better tomorrow, act for the people’s benefit, it will be because we trust them; and leave them alone.