Monday, December 21, 2009

Wen Tzu - Verse 90

from Verse Ninety
When it fights repeated wars and wins repeated victories, a country will perish. When it fights repeated wars, the people are wearied; when it wins repeated victories, the rulership becomes haughty. Let a haughty rulership employ a weary people, and few countries would not perish.

When rulers are haughty, they become indulgent, and when they become indulgent they use things up. When people are weary they become resentful, and when they become resentful they reach the end of their wits. When rulers and ruled have both gone to such extremes, destruction is inevitable.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
If you asked most people, I'm certain the opinion would be that repeated defeats, not victories, is what will bring a nation to ruin. Actually, both are true -- endless war is the problem and, as John Lash indicated in the series on the Tao Te Ching, entering into conflict at all is a failure of sorts.

One of the problems with success -- whether speaking of nations at war or each of us in our routine lives -- is that it becomes an insatiable desire. Being successful or victorious makes us feel good about ourselves and so we want to feel it stronger and more often. Not only that, but a lack of success or defeat can be excruciating and may well cause us to ensure -- by any means possible -- that we don't suffer those negative feelings again.

And so, we're ever striving to be the best or to avoid being the worst. Whichever we focus on at any given moment, it creates stress and tension because we're always one step away from the other. No matter how successful we are, we know in the deepest recesses of our mind that we could fall in an instant.

Of course, another problem with success is that we become too full of ourselves. We think we can do anything and so we tend to cease being careful. We leave the middle path and skate on the very edges in the unrealistic belief that we can avert from falling off the path all together.

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

1 comment:

  1. May I recommend an interesting movie relevant to this passage, "Battle of Wits (Mo Gong)," Chinese film with Andy Lau. I've seen it in my local Blockbuster, probably available on Netflix..


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