Sunday, 8 January 2012

Verse 36


Should you want to contain something,
you must first let it expand.
Should you want to weaken something,
you must first let it grow strong.
Should you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.

The lesson here is called
the wisdom of obscurity.
The gentle outlasts the strong.
The obscure outlasts the obvious.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just allow people to see the results.

The Tao Te Ching is filled with seeming paradox. And yet life is one big paradox. There is usually little truth in the obvious, however widespread its acceptance and ‘common sense’ is usually a contradiction in terms.

The most obvious, ‘common sense’ solution is often the thing that pushes what we want further out of reach. Sometimes adopting the opposite approach is what allows things to come to us; no struggle, not fret, no desperate clawing and grasping.

One of the central messages of the Tao Te Ching is to let go and allow life to be. The moment we cease grasping and trying to control and manipulate is the moment life begins to flow and all can come to us in the right time and in the right way, if it is in balance with the whole.

Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate some of the key conditioning of our culture, which indoctrinates us to believe that strength comes through force, harshness, aggressiveness, covetousness, plotting and being as hard and fast and unstoppable as we can.

Lao Tzu suggests that it may well be the exact opposite; that true power stems from gentleness, softness and slowness. There’s even evidence to support this. It’s been shown that those with kinder, gentler dispositions tend to enjoy far greater health and longevity in the long run than those of a more aggressive, grasping and restless nature.

It would therefore serve us well to try to eliminate the latter and cultivate more of the former in our lives.

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