Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu continues his ecological thinking, more than two millennia ahead of time. In his own era, he was not alone in appreciating the world as it was, but he expressed it with rare sharpness and devotion.
He would not have approved of the Great Wall of China, which was begun around the time when this book is supposed to have been written. That colossal wall, which grew and grew by each century, is such a striking symbol of what Lao Tzu deplored, one must wonder if he watched its beginning with his own eyes.
The emperors, who tried to hold onto their vast domain by enclosing it, were indeed headed towards the failure he foresaw.
The bigger things are, the more difficult they are to grab and keep. The world is simply too much. So are countries, even rather small ones. Any one of them has had countless rulers, even dynasties, where the mightiest of kings have been replaced, borders have been moved, treasures have changed owners, and castles have been vacated. Power is not persistent.
Many have tried to change the whole world or some significant parts of it. We seem to be getting good at it, lately. But each such change must be constantly renewed and fortified. Otherwise, the world will soon return to its previous state. Man-made changes wither, often quicker than men do.
Nature gnaws down unattended buildings, grass pierces through asphalt, and forests move in on lawns that aren't mowed regularly. Animals, too, feast on civilization as they do on nature. The changes we make are splendid only in our own eyes, and we should refrain from blinking if we want the sight to remain.
From the smallest to the biggest part of the world, everything changes. Water evaporates, rising to the sky, and falls back on the ground as rain. Forests grow, burn down, and grow back up again. Even the vast continents move across the surface of the planet, as if playing their own Rubik's Cube.
Our whole planet is spinning around its axis, and around the sun, in a remarkable race which is still insignificant compared to the movements of galaxies and the expansion of the whole universe. Everything is changing, and most of those changes are far superior to anything the human being can accomplish.
We don't fail because we try to change things, but because we want to stop them from changing. What little adjustments we do to the world, we don't want undone. We build our houses and want them to remain exactly as they were immediately after the roofing.
That's futile. Decay starts already at the beginning of growth. Change has neither beginning nor end. We can never fully control it, since we are mere parts of it.
So, what Lao Tzu states about the consequences would be true, if change and seizure of the world were at all possible. If the world could be changed into a fixed state, which is what we would try, it could only lead to destruction. We would have to stop time, and where would that leave us?
There is no satisfaction in pretense, if allowed to guide our lives. We need to be what we are, not what we would like to be. Otherwise we can never come to like ourselves, and then we will never be pleased.
Lao Tzu understands the temptation of overdoing things and reaching beyond our wildest dreams. But he also knows about the price that needs to be paid for it. It's inevitable, since chasing our dreams means running away from our reality.
He wants us to start by reexamining what we have and what we are, because he is confident that doing so, we will find it to be sufficient. Then we can enjoy it. What more to ask for?