Have done with learning,
And you will have no more vexation.
How great is the difference between “eh” and “o”?
What is the distinction between “good” and “evil”?
Must I fear what others fear?
What abysmal nonsense this is!
All men are joyous and beaming,
As though feasting upon a sacrificial ox,
As though mounting the Spring Terrace;
I alone am placid and give no sign,
Like a babe which has not yet smiled.
I alone am forlorn as one who has no home to return to.
All men have enough and to spare:
I alone appear to possess nothing.
What a fool I am!
What a muddled mind I have!
All men are bright, bright:
I alone am dim, dim.
All men are sharp, sharp:
I alone am mum, mum!
Bland like the ocean,
Aimless like the wafting gale.
All men settle down in their grooves:
I alone am stubborn and remain outside.
But wherein I am most different from others is
In knowing to take sustenance from my Mother!
This was the perfect passage for me to read today. I was talking with someone today about the democratization of information. While a veritable universe of information is only a Google search away, so is a universe of misinformation and lies. This plethora of misinformation and opinion results in fear for many individuals. People read a Facebook post or an op-ed article and it stokes the flames of fear and anxiety. But how true is what I read, and do I really need to be afraid because someone else tells me I should be concerned? As Lao Tzu puts it: “Must I fear what others fear?”
I have chosen not to go down this path of fear. Fear is only a perspective, a mental construct of possibilities that may not even come to pass. All I know for certain is what is happening in my life right now. This is what I choose to focus on.
Like Lao Tzu, I also “take sustenance from my Mother.” When I step out into my garden, or walk around my neighborhood, or commune with Nature, or meditate, I am drawing energy from the divine source. This puts my mind in a state of happiness and tranquility. The stress and noise of everyday life tends to melt away. I am much more content when I am in this space as opposed to worrying about some news story or what another person is thinking.
As things get crazier in our society, it would do you good to take a step back, breathe, and shift your perspective. I suspect that when you do so, you will find some much-needed serenity.
2 responses to ““Tao Teh Ching: Chapter 20” by Lao Tzu”
I love this chapter too. I read somewhere that what he is referring to when he speaks about being like “a babe that has not yet learned to smile” is the concept of the “uncarved block,” a spiritual state of being where one is natural and unobtrusive, simple and non-striving. Rather than always having to be “bright,” on-stage all the time, presenting a hyper-positive view of oneself and trying to impress others, its quite pleasant and relaxing to just melt into the background, watch and observe without judgement and go with the flow, “leaving no trace”, another Tao concept relating to the uncarved block. Quite appealing, especially in these times when so many are trying to “shine” on FB and twitter and our blogs (me included). Something of our true nature is lost by such striving, I believe. I don’t think we necessariiy have to give all that up (although sometimes its tempting), but to participate in a non-striving way can be helpful. Anyway, thank you for sharing this.
Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!! You added a whole other level of meaning to the text for me. Cheers!