Enlightenment may be more illusion than real… not that it isn’t real, mind you. Just as Something and Nothing produce each other, so do ignorance and enlightenment. The next question is, to what does enlightenment correlate, ‘Something’ or ‘Nothing’? (See Tools of Taoist Thought: Correlations.)
If you see enlightenment as ‘Something’, then it correlates to obvious, bright, light, life, full, sudden, special, etc. If you see enlightenment as ‘Nothing’, then it correlates to such Taoist terms as:MYSTERY UPON MYSTERY, DARKLY VISIBLE, DEATH, STILLNESS, EMPTINESS, PERPETUITY, IMPARTIALITY, THE CONSTANT, to name a few. Thus, by expecting enlightenment to be ‘Something’, you will certainly miss it, if it is indeed ‘Nothing‘.
We must live life until we take our last breath. The biological instincts driving us to resist entropy run deeper than any enlightened singularity occurring in our brain’s mind. Enlightened or not, our original animal nature still runs the show. The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath [our] feet each moment, regardless. In this regard, we are all in the same ‘life boat’ together. It naturally follows that the sage has no mind of his own. He takes as his own the mind of the people. Chapter 65 reveals a deeper reality; Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them.
Maybe what we long for is an ‘enlightened life’. Everyone can live an enlightened life. Through the ages, many have laid out ways to go about this. Each way has its champions; each saying, “This is the true way!” Curiously, this often becomes a way to avoid taking “the beam out of thine own eye”, as Jesus said. Touting a perfect true way is also symptomatic of deep insecurities and tribal instincts.
If there is no “true way”, then what does one do? I find it helps to take great care in my life’s moment-to-moment rather than what I’m doing in particular or where any moment leads. It boils down to living the life I truly want to live. For that, it becomes a matter of quality versus quantity; process over resulting success or failure. As my life of desire began to feel less meaningful, I found I had no choice but to take ‘this way’ more seriously. Indeed, The great way is easy when there is no alternative. In an ignorance of our ignorance, we chase the promises of our desires until finally we can, as chapter 19 puts it, come to Have little thought of self and as few desires as possible. Later, chapter 64 adds, Therefore the sage desires not to desire, And does not value goods which are hard to come by.