When the government is muddled
The people are simple;
When the government is alert
The people are cunning.
I live a much more muddled life now that I see reality more deeply. I can no longer govern myself with certainty now that I know nothing is as it seems, nor does anything remain as it is. This revolves into that, which revolves into this again. Going this way brings me over that way. How odd.
By governing myself in a more hesitant and muddled way, my life has become simpler. I used to long for the simple and tried various tactics to find simplicity, all of which failed, e.g., getting rid of possessions, renouncing certain actions. I was always certain of what I wanted and pushed to make it happen. Nothing ever got simple. Now, I have given up some things and some actions—but not by choice. Being more muddled naturally leads in that direction; I need do nothing at all.
When I set out to actively govern my life I cunningly rationalize the pursuit of my desires. I’m able to completely delude myself and get away with that which I often dislike in others—hypocrisy is unavoidable.
Isn’t the government essentially an emergent property of the people. We are the cause, the government is the effect. So, this could easily read When the people are muddled, The government is simple; When the people are alert, The govenment is cunning.
It is on disaster that good fortune perches;
It is beneath good fortune that disaster crouches.
Who knows the limit? Does not the straightforward exist?
The straightforward changes again into the crafty, and the good changes again into the monstrous. Indeed, it is long since the people were perplexed.
In youth I figured that good fortune was within my power to control. When I first began to realize that It is beneath good fortune that disaster crouches I would feel some apprehension whenever things were going well…waiting for the downside. This knowing has forced me to ‘sit looser’ to life, which in the end more than makes up for the lost illusions.
That the good changes again into the monstrous brings home the circular nature of existence. Many times I have thought I was certainly headed one way in life only to find myself back where I began. I’ve largely given up illusions of progress and now regard myself as a perpetual beginner. This approach opens me up to a more mysterious reality, for I can no longer use expectations for emotional security.
I find that I can vanquish the monstrous only by first letting go of the good. This goes against my emotions, which of course want the good without the monstrous. This must rank as the most difficult of life’s lessons. I can’t have good without bad—and if I have to give up good, how can life be worth living? Ahhh..I find that by giving up good, I can touch that mysterious sameness [see ch. 56].
Therefore the sage is square-edged but does not scrape,
Has corners but does not jab,
Extends himself but not at the expense of others,
Shines but does not dazzle.
My sage qualities can surface as long as my instinctual nature doesn’t take over. All the jabbing, scraping, dazzling that I have done has been caused by my survival instinct. I WANTED to be on top.
When I realized I was extending myself at the expense of others my first reaction was to avoid extending myself, avoid, avoid, avoid. Of course this can never work due to the circularity of nature. Neither hanging on nor letting go bring the peace I seek. One only revolves into the other. The beauty of shines but does not dazzle lies in its balance. It is a middle way—an attempt to navigate between extremes.
It’s ironic—I extended myself at the expense of others and hoped to dazzle the most when I was trying to transform myself into a sage. I’m reminded of ‘trying to put out a fire with fire’. It is as futile as trying to keep the good and eradicate the evil.