Between yea and nay
How much difference is there?
Between good and evil
How great is the distance?
Between good and evil How great is the distance? makes more sense when I substitute yea and nay, (or) good and evil for other opposites. Life and death, for example, reveal a lack of personal choice in going one way or another. No one chooses to be alive, we are just born. And die when we die. No one chooses to be evil,i.e., insane. The root of opposites has a chain of cause and effect that begins small but can reach large proportions. So how great is the distance? The distance only seems great when viewing end effects.
Between yea and nay, how much difference is there? brings to mind the whole world recognizes the good as the good, yet this is only the bad and something and Nothing produce each other[see ch. 2]. The more I emphasize one side, the more difference its opposite appears to possess. Difference is perceptual—the effect of thinking. The differences we notice say more about how the human mind works and our own needs than about reality.
Asking myself between yea and nay, how much difference is there,—really—helps keep my viewpoint muddled. This slows down the impulse to jump to conclusions based on expectations and fantasies. My instinctual inclination is to amplify differences which leads me to ‘make mountains out of a mole hills’.
What others fear
One must also fear.
It’s easy to discount what others fear, if I don’t experience those same fears. It took a long time to realize that the root of these myriad fears lies in insecurity and that this manifests differently for each of us. Seeing this common root of fear which I share with all life makes me feel a deeper kinship with others. Knowing that my own insecurity drives action helps temper my own responses and live a little more humbly.
And wax without having reached the limit.
The multitude are joyous
As if partaking of the ‘Tai Lao’ offering
Or going up to a terrace in spring.
I alone am inactive and reveal no signs,
Like a baby that has not yet learned to smile,
Listless as though with no home to go back to.
The multitude all have more than enough.
I alone seem to be in want.
My mind is that of a fool—how blank!
Vulgar people are clear.
I alone am drowsy.
Vulgar people are alert.
I alone am muddled.
Calm like the sea;
Like a high wind that never ceases.
The multitude all have a purpose.
I alone am foolish and uncouth.
I alone am different from others
And value being fed by the mother.
Wax without having reached the limit reminds me of the advice to ‘leave while the party is still fun’. Likewise, when I stop eating before I’m stuffed, leaves me feeling much better.
When I’m in a situation where people are joyous I am pulled in one of two directions. I either try to be included or if that isn’t working I reject the group and rationalize a viewpoint that puts them down. Both of these are stressful. The view that I alone am inactive and reveal no signs helps me slow down these impulses and let it be.
I alone am drowsy, muddled, foolish, uncouth, and different from others gives me immense moral support for just being myself—not that I’m especially drowsy, muddled and such. It’s just that stress comes from a deep urge to not come off as foolish and uncouth. I want people to like and accept me and so I fear that any show of these ‘weaknesses’ will lower my social status. From the Taoist view, though, such ‘weakness’ holds the profound lower position. Yielding to it lets me value being fed by the mother; only then can I feel calm like the sea.
I realize more and more that muddled and uncouth is how I really am, and have always been. Alert with purpose is what I strive to be, or at least want to appear to be, socially speaking. The former is reality while the latter is an ephemeral and relative ideal. In the end, I’ll always end up back at my drowsy base line. The joy of this Scripture is that it affirms my natural state, and heavily discounts societies ‘norms’.
The less I knew, as a youth, the clearer my life was. As the years go by I’ve come to know that I don’t know, and this leaves me muddled. In youth this sensation would leave me feeling very insecure; now it just feels peaceful, for I don’t expect nor wish otherwise. Yes, I am muddled.
When I stop moving forward with such fervor, I slow down enough to see who I really am, and have always been. The more I sense this baby that has not yet learned to smile, the simpler life becomes. As I accept that I’m muddled and drowsy, the only option left for me is to trust and value being fed by the mother Tao.