One who excels in travelling leaves no wheel tracks;
One who excels in speech makes no slips;
One who excels in reckoning uses no counting rods;
One who excels in shutting uses no bolts
yet what he has shut cannot be opened.
One who excels in tying uses no cords
yet what he has tied cannot be undone.
One who excels in travelling leaves no wheel tracks reminds me of walking in the forest. I excel at this when I slow down enough to pay attention to each step. I make less commotion as I walk which makes my connection with nature more intimate. This also allows me to excel at survival; I’m less likely to step on a snake, yet if I was hunting, more likely to succeed.
Therefore the sage always excels in saving people, and so abandons no one;
always excels in saving things, and so abandons nothing.
This is called following one’s discernment.
I begin saving things in a material way when I lose discernment. My urge to actually save things arises out of insecurity, as a hedge against the unknown. The less I’m following my discernment, the more unsettling the unknown becomes. Thus, I see this saving and abandoning nothing as referring to my sense of connection. When discernment is highest I feel most connected with the ‘whole’—nothing is abandoned. When my discernment ebbs, I lose touch and scurry about saving stuff to ward off my sense of abandonment and isolation.
The crux of this chapter lies with discernment. Another translation gives us inner intelligence instead of discernment. This inner intelligence / discernment is not knowledge I can acquire; it’s how I look at life—my attitude. The Following in following one’s discernment is key. When I’m really paying attention, I follow reality as it flows by my consciousness without attempting to lead with preconceptions and ideals. In this all inclusive consciousness I abandon nothing and no one.
Abandoning nothing or no one is compassion—keeping the sense of connection. An example would be killing a mosquito which is biting me at night. If I take it personally and demonize the mosquito, I lose connection and abandon it. If, however, I maintain a respect and sense of connection with it while killing it, PART OF ME DIES AS WELL; here, compassion is maintained throughout and I abandon nothing. Even though both approaches result in a dead mosquito, the former abandons while the latter does not.
I find life boils down to one of two approaches; either I follow my discernment or I follow my desire. And of course, real life is a blending of the two. However, I never seem to have a problem with having too few desires, nor with having too much discernment.
I abandon the fullness of the present whenever I ‘take off’ in a desire to fulfill some need. Whatever I think I’m needing is, of course, missing in my life. What’s really missing, though, is a sense of fulfillment, and satiating needs only gives momentary relief. Following my discernment (being attentive) helps me appreciate THE HERE AND NOW, and so I abandon less, if not nothing. This brings me a deeper and longer lasting sense of fulfillment.
Hence the good man is the teacher the bad learns from;
And the bad man is the material the good works on.
Not to value the teacher
Nor to love the material
Though it seems clever, betrays great bewilderment.
This is called the essential and the secret.
This really points out the vital role each side (of the cosmic whole) has in the natural process—the complementary interaction of good and bad, so to speak. Of course, the fullest meaning comes into view when I substitute other words for good and bad. Doing this really uncovered my deepest biases and elitist notions. To truly abandon nothing or no one is quite challenging.
I either tend to value the teacher or love the material. Choosing sides comes naturally. Why does this betray great bewilderment?. All I know is that the quickest way to escape the sense of bewilderment is by elevating something at the expense of its counterpart. I cheer on the good and decry the bad, which cleverly nails reality down nice and tidy-like. Then, I don’t have to face bewilderment head on. Yes indeed, bewilderment is often the engine behind cleverness.
The essential and the secret for me is how reality is interconnected. I can’t separate one side from its counterpart without resorting to some clever rationalizations. Maybe humanity is actually less aware than so called ‘dumb’ animals because of the filtering effect our mind has on reality.
Though it seems clever, betrays great bewilderment points to a handy phenomenon which helps me see deeper toward the essential and the secret. I notice that deeper inner motives drive external behaviors, and these are often (if not always) complementary. Thus, if I’m feeling very insecure deep within, I compensate by bragging and boasting. All my boasting betrays my inner sense of weakness.