Thinking Outside The Box
Tao Te Ching 7
Heaven and Earth last forever.
Why do heaven and Earth last forever?
They are unborn, So ever living.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.
The seventh passage of the Tao Te Ching is essentially an affirmation of some of the things that have already been mentioned. However, I have discovered that this substantiation bears repeating because it might not be a particularly simple concept to grasp. While I could easily have dismissed this passage as Lao Tzu being a little redundant, I believe that expounding on the subject would probably suit me – along with anyone else that reads this – a little better.
I’ve noticed that a great deal of the people in the world love mystery and see both Heaven (the spiritual world) and Earth (the physical world) as among the greatest mysteries of all. Both scientists and laymen are constantly exploring the ‘origins’ of Heaven and Earth, trying to discover how these things came to be and, in some cases, trying to disprove the existence of the former. Was there a really ‘big bang?’ Did a Supreme Being create all that is around us? Are we an experiment by aliens?
The Taoist, though he or she may love mysteries and other curiosities, does not look to place such limitations on Heaven and Earth by attempting to define their existences in finite terms. To the Taoist, these things simply exist, always have existed, and always will exist. They are far too vast and enduring for the Taoist to consider being so arrogant and presumptive as to attempt to characterize Heaven and Earth in any kind of conceivable terms. Heaven and Earth simply are, as they always have been, and always shall be.
The Taoist (or “sage”) attempts not to classify or label Heaven and Earth but simply to exist between them as harmoniously as possible by emulating them to the best of his or her ability. By not competing, not contrasting, not assigning labels, and not seeking conflict, the Taoist remains uninvolved in secular movements and “drama” and thus, through neutrality, remains involved in all things because he or she can see the ten-thousand things for what they truly are. By not choosing to seek advantage or “take a side,” the Taoist is afforded a comfortable place in all disputes by not having to be declared a ‘winner’ or ‘loser.’ By doing things that lack selfish motivation, the Taoist recognizes his or her own accomplishments and savors them without concerns for gains, losses, or appreciation from others. Content in having done something, the Taoist moves on to the next thing with a peaceful heart.
It is difficult for many to comprehend that some things – like Heaven and Earth – just exist and do not need to be understood, defined, broken-down, and explained. As well, it seems that many people consider it “impossible” to remain uninvolved in situations that don’t truly relate to them or to do things without some measure of gain or display of approval or gratitude for having done it. It is, of course, nothing more than conditioning to feel that detachment from things is wrong; society is determined that we people should believe that we are completely dependent on one-another in all aspects of life and that any person who contentedly exists on his or her own is ‘antisocial’ and resultantly ‘has problems.’ We are conditioned to believe that we are all involved in everything, that nobody should be left-out (even if they wish to be, because they clearly ‘have problems’ and require an ‘intervention’), and that all living things are bound-by-carbon as human science understands it.
Don’t misinterpret my words: there is nothing wrong with enjoying the company of others or receiving some manner of praise or thankfulness for one’s efforts. However, the Taoist understands and accepts that these things are not guaranteed and acknowledges that such things are not necessary to find contentment in life. The Taoist is not hurt by social rejection because he or she did not see acceptance as a necessity for happiness. The Taoist does not refuse to do things because he or she did not receive consent, veneration, or thanks the last time these things were done. Like Heaven and Earth, the Taoist simply is and simply does.