Monday, February 2, 2009

Tao Te Ching V. 2 :

So here we go with verse 2, which has so much in it that I'm going to split it up a bit...feel free to help me out with your own thoughts, experiences, opinions.

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come'
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

Just a note before digging in: "Master" is, in my estimation, a term used for someone who is at peace with whatever happens to be. No matter what. Someone unrattled by emotional family situations, tight work deadlines, or the fine line between losing your house and paying your mortgage for the next month.

I've never met this kind of a master.

It'd be so cool to meet someone like that, wouldn't it? Or maybe that I think about it, I might just be immature enough to try over and over and over to rattle him or her. Like a little kid extending his finger just close enough to his neighbor to annoy. "I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you."

So in this verse, seems like Lao Tzu wanted people to know that evaluating everything is pretty much a waste of time. Things just...are.

Crap...can I live with that?

I've had a lifetime of being judged and judging situations as good or bad; friends as true or untrue; family members as ignorant or enlightened; the workplace as the root of insanity or salvation! I'd have to live in silence on a mountaintop to live as if things just...are.

But maybe not...

I had a friend who was late for everything. Not only late for everything, but depended upon me to take her places because her car was usually in an impound lot. I always told her to meet me 1/2 hour early because I knew she would be at least a 1/2 hour late. (I swear she had her own time zone.) It happened a lot. I was angry a lot. She was so late to her own birthday dinner that we all ate without her. She showed up late to 3 weddings - two of which she was in - causing stress on many levels. We all tried talking to her, helping in any way we could, but mostly ended up feeling really frustrated and angry.

Until this verse of the Tao Te Ching bitch-slapped me in the face.

Therefore the Master/ acts without doing anything/ and teaches without saying anything. Things arise and she lets them come/ things disappear and she lets them go.

My friend was notoriously late. I knew that. So if I am going to make dinner reservations, I better be prepared to eat alone. If I am giving her a ride and she doesn't arrive on time, I better be prepared to leave without her. And without judgment, criticism or grudging. Whether it's judging silently inside or worse, behind her back with friends. It had to stop.

So I stopped waiting. If she doesn't show, I choose to do something else, knowing that that is a good possibility. And it is so incredibly freeing. I'm not waiting in anger. I'm not anticipating. I'm not criticizing myself or her.

Being alone on that mountaintop would be great! But I'd miss my family and friends. Even when they're two hours late.


  1. This is Aaron from your OSU taiji class... there's an interesting discussion in the Conversations with God series of books that parallels the first half of this verse, but with a different slant--more personal, less universal.

    The passage I'm thinking of in CWG is about defining one's own identity and says something like, "In the absence of that which is not, that which you are... is NOT." The idea in CWG is that we build our identities by placing ourselves in a context, and then relating to that context.

    On the second half, I too have had experiences with friends that show late/don't show/etc. and it has taken a long time to release my expectations of them!

  2. Aaron, can you give me an example of a context in which one would put themselves and how one relates to that context?

    This is interesting, but I don't think I quite get it. (I've even had coffee for the day!) :)

    I've never read the Conversations with God series, but I like that you say it is more personal than universal. That piques my interest.

  3. What a wonderful post. I was sent over by your brilliant sister Karin. I see that brilliance runs in the family.