Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wen Tzu - Verse 38

from Verse Thirty-Eight
The highest sages emulate natural law, the next best esteem wisdom, the lowest leave things to ministers. Leaving things to ministers is a way to danger and destruction, esteeming the wise is a source of folly and confusion, emulating natural law is the way to govern heaven and earth.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
On the surface, this appears to be one of those passages that speaks to the governing of people and nations. To be certain, I wouldn't argue that it does indeed contain this element. That said, I believe the message is more personal -- one aimed at each of us.

When we rely on the dictates of others, we live lives that are not thoroughly of our own nature. We often abandon what we know to be true within ourselves to follow the popular fads and contours of society. We then find ourselves in trouble when we encounter crossroads because, without our own foundation, we truly don't know which way to go. So, we often follow wherever the herd is going, even if it is headed off a cliff!

When we rely too much on wisdom, we also can find ourselves in a heap of trouble. Wisdom is borne from our egos and is subjective. Since we don't always know all the variables involved in any given situation, what seems like the wise thing to do may, in fact, be the stupidest choice of all!

While making use of others (ministers) and wisdom are fraught with problems, trusting the Way is trouble free. When we allow ourselves to flow with the circumstances, we embody Tao in every thought and action.

Yes, it's so easy to write; so difficult to do!!

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


  1. I like that, good solid Taoism

  2. yep and i would argue that the real difficulty lies in identifying which actions are those of natural law, which are those of wisdom, and which are those of outside opinion. people have been ingrained with the "wisdom" of others taught to them in schools, and told to repress their own individual thoughts or beliefs. so it's often difficult to know if what you believe is your own wisdom or the beliefs of others that you've simply accepted. how much harder to distinguish natural law from inner wisdom! how does one even begin to do that? i am still trying to sort out which beliefs and actions are "my own" and which are just impressed upon me by society!


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