One who possesses virtue in abundance is comparable to a new born babe:
Poisonous insects will not sting it;
Ferocious animals will not pounce on it;
Predatory birds will not swoop down on it.
Its bones are weak and its sinews supple yet its hold is firm.
It does not know of the union of male and female yet its male member will stir:
This is because its virility is at its height.
It howls all day yet does not become hoarse:
This is because its harmony is at its height.
A major difference between a new born babe and myself is language. I can think about the past, present and future. Being able to do so allows me to dwell on past wrongs and future events that, like predatory birds, swoop down on me. The only time an infant is bothered by this is when it actually happens, and then only for an instant. I, on the other hand, can worry incessantly until the day I die about things which never happen, or when they do occur turn out to be nothing much.
I live with imagined possibilities of poisonous insects stinging me, and ferocious animals pouncing on me. Of course the animals are no longer actual animals. It’s job security, taxes, and anything else that I fret and dwell on. I design an ideal world in my mind which I use as a gauge to judge reality. Life becomes a struggle between what I think life should be and what it is. I become hoarse and stressed from overextending myself and wasting energy needlessly.
My virility and harmony were at their height at birth. At that point I was the recipient of billions of years of evolution. I was a part of this whole for I hadn’t created a mental virtual reality yet. As my ‘illusion’ of self grew, I became more and more separate from the whole.
To know harmony is called the constant;
To know the constant is called discernment.
To try to add to one’s vitality is called ill-omened;
For the mind to egg on the breath is called violent.
What is the constant except that which has continued forever. It’s certainly not my passing thoughts, opinions and expectations. At times I put myself in the shoes of those who have lived and are now dead. I feel a common ‘consciousness’ and sense that what I sense is the same as that sensed by those now dead. This brings me a great sense of harmony, and almost some immortality for I know that those who will come after me will likewise sense what I’m sensing today.
I feel the deepest discernment when I’m aware of both the foreground and background of life. The background has a constant quality, unchanging and enduring, while the foreground is always on the move. As I lose sight of the background, I lose my foundation, float and soon become disoriented and confused.
A creature in its prime doing harm to the old
Is known as going against the way.
That which goes against the way will come to an early end.
It is easy to become a creature in its prime doing harm to the old. We no longer need to work so closely with nature as other animals need to (and as we once did). So much of recent human progress has been to liberate us from nature. At every turn we seek to hide our primal constant animal nature. We conjure up beliefs of our superiority. We civilize our life by keeping the primitive behind closed doors (and clothes). We’ll do anything from deodorizing our smells to coloring our hair to be other than what we are—new born babes. Why? I can only think it stems from a deep insecurity we feel.
A creature in its prime doing harm to the old sure reminds me of what we have done to the environment. Every aspect of nature seems expendable as long as we get the ultimate comfort and security.