Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Verse 68: Not Striving

Verse Sixty-Eight
A good soldier is not violent.
A good fighter is not angry.
A good winner is not vengeful
A good employer is humble.
This is known as the Virtue of not striving.
This is known as ability to deal with people.
This since ancient times has been known as the ultimate unity with heaven.

~ Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English translation ~
At one time or another, all of us are in a hurry to get someplace. Maybe we piddled around for too long and now we realize we're in danger of being late for an important gathering, meeting or appointment. So, as we try to rush to where we need to go, we increase the stride of our step. Unfortunately, it's not infrequent that we end up stumbling or falling down. By overstepping, we lose our sense of balance and put ourselves in harm's way.

Over striving is the emotional counterpart to over striding. It is when we try too hard -- forcing our will on others -- that we lose our sense of balance and find ourselves involved in one conflict after another. I found an old blog, SpaceAgeSage, that speaks to this issue:
There is an old Yiddish phrase that goes, “If you are out to beat a dog, you are sure to find a stick.” If I live my life this way, I am always looking for the negative. It would be like having conflict as a default setting on my outlook on life. If that is the case, the world becomes them vs. me. All my viewpoints get filtered through the glasses of doubt, mistrust, and wariness.

Chapter 68 is about living a life free of conflict. Like a willow bending in the wind, a person moves with life instead of against it. Like water flowing in a river, a person travels with the current instead of fighting it. I have found that conflict or resistance or opposition causes an equal and opposite reaction in the other person. Chapter 68 is about neutralizing that reaction.
And why do we seem always to want to force our will on others? As Carl Abbott of Center Tao explains, it's all about fear!
The fear of loss lies at the heart of this dynamic. When I feel threatened with the loss of something I cherish, I either react in anger or dig in my heels and hang on. When I need to be SOMEBODY, or when I fear losing personal status, I’m unable to be humble. When I cling to my opinion as though it were life itself, I join issue—I argue. When I feel week and vulnerable I strive to appear strong and ‘cool’. By knowing this dynamic, I not only know myself better, but find the world much easier to deal with.

All actions seem to stem from a fear of loss—losing order, solitude, friends, health, wealth, and so on. When I reach out for something, it is because I LACK something I FEEL I need. I’ve lost contentment with what I have hear and now, or I fear losing what I have here and now.

The sublimity of heaven lies in the truth that the universe doesn’t care about anything in particular. It’s all embracing and yet neutral and shows no favoritism. Life, on the other hand, chooses ‘this’ over ‘that’. It is biased in its cares. While I can, as a life-form, never match this full sublimity of heaven, I can match it through my understanding, which broadens my circle of caring; the more universal this love, the greater peace I know.
A life built on conflict is one built on insatiable competition. It's a life of separation, one that does not embrace the connection of all things. Far worse, leading an adversarial life means there will always be winners and losers. As John Lash points out,
Winning causes resentment and bitterness in the loser. To be vengeful in victory always increases this resentment which, in turn, increases the chances that the conflict will be renewed at a later time.
As we examine the lives we lead, if those lives are embroiled in conflicts of every hue and at every turn, rather than blaming the world for being "out to get us", the Tao person will look in the mirror. More likely than not, that is where we will find the chief protagonist!

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

1 comment:

  1. People should take some time to poke this post around a bit. There is a lot to be learned and is a bit layered.


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