Favour and disgrace are things that startle;
High rank is, like one’s body, a source of great trouble.
What is meant by saying that favour and disgrace are things that startle?
Favour when it is bestowed on a subject serves to startle as much as when it
is withdrawn. This is what is meant by saying that favour and disgrace are
things that startle. What is meant by saying that high rank is, like one’s
body, a source of great trouble? The reason I have great trouble is that I have
a body. When I no longer have a body, what trouble have I?
Taoism offers a path embracing ‘low rank’. Of course life’s survival instinct is always holding on to its high rank, for fear of loss and death. I don’t expect to rid myself of this urge, but, knowing the great trouble which life can be, gives me great peace of mind. I don’t expect the impossible.
The reason I have great trouble is that I have a body parallels Buddha’s First Noble Truth: The existence of suffering: Birth is suffering. Growth, decay and death are suffering. Sad it is to be joined with that which we dislike, sadder still is the separation from that which we love, and painful is the craving for that which can not be obtained. All this trouble vanishes when the body dies.
My biology tells me that favour will make me happy, and disgrace will not. But, these two are complementary. One creates the other, just at Something and Nothing produce each other[see ch. 2]. If I depend on favour, I live in disgrace, or in fear of disgrace. The only place I can feel truly comfortable is at the ‘Golden Mean’, as Buddha called it.
High rank relates to elitism. This must arise out of our social instinct to find our place in the tribal hierarchy. The deeper I hold to elitism standards, the deeper my source of trouble. This is the biological ‘cross’ we bear.
Hence he who values his body more than dominion over the empire can be
entrusted with the empire. He who loves his body more that dominion over the
empire can be given custody of the empire.
The natural laws which apply to a real king and his empire also apply to me, of course. It’s just a matter of scale. I see my body as the most basic empire, which makes this verse a little odd for me. To value my body more than dominion over the empire calls for a subtler definition of body. Personal integrity fits, though this is still tangible and relative. Non-discerning consciousness—plain and simple—fits best. Use the light, But give up the discernment [see ch. 52]. This is my body’s body; it’s the eternal which I share with all creation.
When I DESIRE to have dominion over the empire, I’m using the empire to compensate for my own deficiency. I don’t feel inner harmony, so I NEED to control circumstances until they conform to my ideals. I’m pushed by an illusion; when the circumstances are right, I’ll feel right with the world. I’m a true steward of the empire when I’m content within. And, contentment is deepest when integrity is all that matters.
Modern circumstances make it especially easy for me to race ahead of myself ( body ), and scramble to do, or get, what I think I need to survive and be happy. As I forget my body and leave it behind, appreciation for simplicity fades. I look ahead and regard the ‘state’ of affairs ( the empire ) as pivotal to happiness, and meddle away in the hope of making reality conform to my ideal.
If I honestly take care of my own backyard, the most basic aspect of my life, I can safely move, step by step, out into having custody of the empire. Of course, it’s so much easier to race ahead of myself and meddle in other’s affairs. This must be my social ‘pecking order’ instincts at work; we are all messing with each other’s lives and out of that chaos come hierarchical order.
When appreciation of the simple slips away, I begin craving dominion over the empire. I need something to stimulate me, and nothing does it better that feeling a sense of control . Thus, custody of the empire lies best in the hands of one who doesn’t need it. Such hands would not use the empire to prop up their own life.