By not exalting the talented you will cause the people to cease from rivalry and contention.
By not prizing goods hard to get, you will cause the people to cease from robbing and stealing.
By not displaying what is desirable, you will cause the people’s hearts to remain undisturbed.
Therefore, the Sage’s way of governing begins by
Emptying the heart of desires,
Filling the belly with food,
Weakening the ambitions,
Toughening the bones.
In this way he will cause the people to remain without knowledge and without desire, and prevent the knowing ones from any ado.
Practice Non-Ado, and everything will be in order.
As I read this, I thought about just how different the paradigm or our western consumer society is from the way of governing depicted here. Our society feeds on the stirring of people’s desires. We feed our society with a constant stream of imagery about how their life should be, about the status they should attain, where they should live, what they should eat, the right clothes to wear. On and on it goes, like a carrot dangling in front of a horse, always within sight but never within reach.
It is a sad truth that a society built upon constant craving and wants cannot sustain itself. We will eventually deplete all our resources and collapse upon ourselves.
Will we be able to stop filling our hearts with desire and instead practice contentment with what we have? Will we start to feed the hungry within our society instead of hoarding for ourselves? Will we start educating people to think about the common good instead of personal and individual ambition? And will we finally find a way to strengthen our society from the inside, to toughen the bones that frame our civilization?
These are difficult if not impossible questions to answer. But by at least thinking about them and discussing them, we take the first step toward a more spiritual and sustainable culture.