Tao Te Ching
THE TAOISM OF LAO TZU
Tao Te Ching
How to live one's life is a complicated matter, occupying most of the Tao Te Ching. But also, merely to stay alive is difficult, and was even more so in the time of Lao Tzu. This chapter talks about how to survive at all.
Three out of ten follow life, which means that they reach old age. Three out of ten head for death. Lao Tzu probably refers to the tragedy of so many children not even reaching adulthood. Infant mortality was very high, actually all the way to the last couple of centuries, in China as well as in the Western world. The 30% should not be taken literally, but the figure was probably not that far from the truth.
Another three out of ten hurry from birth to death, in their desperation to make the most of it. Whether they actually die young because of it is not as significant as their incapacity to enjoy their lifespan. Whenever their death arrives, they will feel that life passed too quickly. That's the strange paradox of trying too hard to find the most time. It will slip away.
That makes nine out of ten. The tenth is the one who really knows how to relate to life, without desperation. What you cherish, but don't struggle too hard to keep, will not escape you. Life is like a cat. It enjoys your company if you don't try to enslave it and don't get too attached to it.
People who have this relaxed relation to life don't provoke death. Nor do they seek it. They walk through life with the spirit of a visitor, who enjoys the experience but doesn't for a moment expect it to last forever. They just live, as long as that is the case, and then they die when the time has come. They appreciate the former and accept the latter.
Without accepting death, they couldn't appreciate life. Without appreciating life, they could not accept death.
The killers of the world, whether they are animals, soldiers, or other threats, are not able to take aim at somebody who is indifferent. Such a person will not be made a target. To attack something, it has to have a defense. If not, then what to attack?
Those who know how to live don't display the intention of defending their lives by taking the lives of others, so they are no threats. Since they are unwilling to defend their lives, those lives seem to be of no value to others. Therefore others are not eager to take them.
Those who never consider taking the lives of others are no threats. So, there's no reason to attack them as some kind of preventive defense. Actually, only those who worry about death venture to impose it on others. And they are particularly anxious to do it on those who also fear death. Killing is mostly done for fear of death.
The ones who know how to live have no imminent fear of death. It's not something that governs their attitude or actions. Therefore it has no place in them. They just live when they live, and die when they die – like the rest of us, but without worrying so much about it.
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