Most of us eventually realize that all success must inevitably pass through a failure stage. From our first years of stumbling before walking, of mumbling before talking, and on through life we gradually learn (perhaps intuitive and subconscious) that if we would take from a thing, we must first give to it. However, I will take this even further: success IS failure. Is this an example of chapter 78’s straightforward words seem paradoxical? It all depends on which phase of the life cycle you consider and how you define success.
That success is failure is how I saw the future when we began holding Taoist meetings here in the mid 80’s. I felt that the closer we kept to Taoist worldview, the less folks would be interested. This would be expected had we lived in the Bible belt. However, this is Santa Cruz California. We are a university town, ‘a nuclear free zone’, liberal and as new age as can be.
Therefore, on the surface you’d think that folks living in this area would be very receptive to the seemingly liberal radical worldview of the Tao Te Ching. Nevertheless, having many people even here interested would still be a strong indication that we were on a by-path, perhaps like going up to a terrace in spring.
This is a testament to the depth of the Tao Te Ching. Appearing very ‘liberal’ on the surface, it would repel ‘conservatives’ in the Bible belt. Appearing ‘conservative’ deeper down, it would repel ‘liberal’ eventually. Impartiality appeals to neither camp, left or right, liberal or conservative. The Taoist view occupies the vast emptiness in between. No wonder it never really caught on in China. Legalism followed by Confucianism was so much easier to put into practice.