When the way prevails in the empire, fleet-footed horses are relegated to
ploughing the fields; when the way does not prevail in the empire, war-horses
breed on the border.
When the way prevails in the empire (my life), the fleet-footed horses of my natural talents are relegated to ploughing the fields (my duty). When the way does not prevail, my life becomes focused on succeeding. The sense being that if I gain enough success, I’ll be happy and content.
Fleet-footed horses are relegated to ploughing the fields, means for me that though I’m capable of forceful action, I have no need of tapping that energy reserve. I’m taking care of my life moment by moment, which is, in fact, more of a maintenance issue. Maintaining the balance of the moment occupies and rewards me, and thus eliminates any need to contend.
War-horses breed on the borders of my life when I feel isolated, insecure and, thus, defensive. The more I attempt to be SOMEBODY, the more distinct this border between me and ‘other’ becomes.
Fleet-footed horses are my powers of mind. My mind can be a beneficial tool when it’s relegated to ploughing the fields of simple needs. When I lose my way, my mind becomes like war-horses.
The way is an anonymous kind of thing. It doesn’t grab our attention. Attention has to be directed somewhere. The moment is also anonymous, and mundane (unless in the throws of some stimulation). Returning to the moment thus requires some deliberate will. This arises out of knowing that the moment is the only time where peace and contentment are found.
Isn’t the way and the moment the same? The moment only exists in the way, not in tomorrow, or yesterday. It’s so easy not to take the way’s moment (or the moment’s way) seriously. This is even more true in a civilized environment where physical comfort and security are maximized. When the moment seems safe and secure, restlessness arises and carries me into the desires of those future moments, moments that never arrive.
There is no crime greater than having too many desires;
There is no disaster greater than not being content;
There is no misfortune greater than being covetous.
Hence in being content, one will always have enough.
How many is too many desires? It’s significant that it doesn’t say any desires. Too many is the problem. I suppose too many desires is the amount that takes me away from being content. Indeed, I find it’s a fine balance I must attend to. I know I have too many when I feel I’m being carried away by desire. When I’m content, more deliberation accompanies desire.
The desire sense always pushes me forward, through time, to act. The opposite, a sense of returning, pulls me inward toward stillness. I feel the way prevails when I’m midway between these two. When I’m absent minded, desire tends to get the upper hand. Paying careful attention to the moment helps me pause and return enough to maintain balance. This is possible when I treat each moment with respect. Only then can I become Tentative, as if fording a river in winter, Hesitant, as if in fear of his neighbours [see ch. 15].
Of course my instincts tell me that if I have enough, I’ll always be content. Knowing that this is a ‘bio-illusion’ helps me relax its hold on me.
Desire is like gravity, it pulls you toward its object. It takes no effort or inner will to experience desire. Appreciation and contentment are just the opposite. In fact desire arises out of contentment, which in nature flows at a healthy pace. Civilization has upped the pace. If I’m to experience more contentment in my life, I have to actively pay attention. Contentment, unlike desire, doesn’t pull you along with it. Contentment is like walking a tight rope. Moment to moment attention is a must, otherwise I fall off into desire. I only pay attention when I take life seriously enough to notice the moment is a mysterious bottomless now. Then I more naturally live each moment hesitant and tentative. Life energy then gets ‘burned up’ here instead of through chasing desires.