I thought I’d share a chapter from the Tao Te Ching and shamelessly clickbait with the title (for those of you who know what I’m talking about). It’s a little snippet that I think more people should take on board and reflect on. I’ve been sitting alone at lunch for some weeks now and have found a profound peace in it. Yet for some, this is strange and something to have to be concerned about. Why? Is it my isolation that worries them or that there is a smaller audience for gossip that I don’t want to hear? Just a few hours ago I got a text asking if I was ok – it was a fishing expedition really, in my opinion – and the sender seemed unsatisfied by my response of (in lots of words) ‘yes’.
“To use words but rarely is to be natural. Hence the gusty wind cannot last all morning, and a sudden downpour cannot last all day. Who is it that produces these? Heaven and earth. If heaven and earth cannot go on forever, much less can man. That is why one follows the way. A man who conforms to the way; a man of virtue conforms to virtue; a man of loss conforms to loss. He who conforms to the way is gladly accepted by virtue; he who conforms to loss is gladly accepted by loss. When there is not enough faith, there is a lack of good faith.” – Tao Te Ching, Chapter 23
This chapter talks about lots of things, and for me it’s about being measured and reserved, so my cup may never run empty. It’s also very stoic in its message about death and loss and even more so about virtue. There’s a comfort in the stillness of it, the universe, to be had in these words. I don’t think it’s appreciated enough in the aggregate that silence is not a sign of being discontented.
“If heaven and earth cannot go on forever, much less can man.“
It’s true of course, this line right here. We can’t go on forever, so in our actions and exasperations: should they too go on. I can talk someone’s ear of all day and say absolutely nothing and add nothing to the universe only hot air. Does that have a point to it? Am I not just wasting my own time and others? Are you?
” A man who conforms to the way; a man of virtue conforms to virtue; a man of loss conforms to loss.“
When someone asks me, typically, if I am ok I say yes. Not because of any formulaic politeness that British people have and expect but because I am. When we have faith in the universe (ourselves in the rationalist stoic perception) and our own virtue, how can we not be alright? I’ve quoted to no end on this blog about Marcus Aurelius and the idea that we can never truly be harmed and I think that is true. As Lao Tze says here, the opposite is also true in our perception of loss. When I was in my worst stages of depression some three years ago, my whole life was continual loss. This wasn’t because it was, in reality, but because in my conformation to that way of being, I was making it so with my own actions. Obviously, I’m not shitting on people who are depressed and saying lighten up, that’s not my place or right nor anyone’s. Yet would anyone or could anyone argue that that’s the optimal way of being?
” When there is not enough faith, there is a lack of good faith.“
Can anyone argue against this? Seriously? Even in the face of pure humanistic values where the semantics mean more than the spiritual essence, this surely is a universal truth. I’ve spoken before about truth being fluid but even then, does the fluidity arise from a lack of good faith in the fact provider or observer? Look around right now and ask does this statement not ring true?
It’s funny how one message from a co-worker asking if I’m ok led me on a journey down this river. I like to think it’s given me the opportunity to learn something and share it. This is only going to be a short post compared to what this topic deserves. I’m sure I’ll revisit it when I’ve gotten myself a better understanding of the texts entire and can bring together contexts. And, I’m ok with this too. After all, as my third favourite Star Wars character says:
“This is the Way.”