The reason why the River and the Sea are able to be king of the hundred valleys
is that they excel in taking the lower position. Hence they are able to be king
of the hundred valleys.
If a rain drop is the beginning of life, then that drop’s final resting place in the Sea is the end—death. The life cycle mirrors the water cycle.
Contending is the role of small upright things. The more narrow and upright my concerns or views, the more likely I am to contend with opposing views. The largest is the lowest, and, like the Sea, is always receptive. Water flows from the turbulent streams into powerful rivers, like people flowing from childhood to adulthood. As the years go by, I feel I’m getting closer to the Sea. The river of my life widens and slows down, and accepts all that flows into it, until finally it reaches the end, the Sea, and there in lies ultimate acceptance.
The lower position is loss. Of course, my life’s survival instinct impels me to avoid loss at all cost. So, I struggle to keep what I have, or get more. Ironically, the more I battle, the less I can enjoy what I have. I find more joy in my life’s advantages when I loosen my grip on them. As the years go by I realize this more, and this knowing serves as an antidote to instinct. I’m less willing to squander energy on futile struggles. It’s easier to let go and let life flow into me as the rivers flow into the River.
How different this view—that the King holds lowest position—is from the common view—that the King holds the pinnacle position.
I guess this is what distinguishes a true King from a control-freak king. My life runs so much better when I take the lower position. King ego is always pushing its agenda. It is like a pretender to the thrown. Maturity is when my true King reigns.
Much of life’s actions seem to be an instinctual response to a fear of loss. When I come to terms with loss (the lowest position), I have nothing to fear—which greatly simplifies life. I can treat all things more equally. Equal treatment to all sets the true King apart. Being King does not give me control over anything—it just gives me the ability to love everything.
Therefore, desiring to rule over the people,
One must in one’s words humble oneself before them;
And, desiring to lead the people,
One must, in one’s person, follow behind them.
I find that people will only be led if you lead them where they want to go. No one can be led where they don’t wish to go. So, essentially, to lead the people you in fact follow them. I suppose a leader serves as a focal point for the inner, even subconscious, wishes of his followers.
The main thrust of this Chapter highlights the value of non-contention. Doesn’t the root of all contention stem from competing desires? Thus, if I desire to rule and desire to lead, I’m priming myself to contend. Taking the lower position through humble words and actions helps counter balance this desire. It is similar to desires not to desire. [see ch. 64]. Taken this way, the issue here is not how to lead, but rather, how to not contend.
Understanding how NOT to contend rather than how to be clever in ruling over others, addresses social relationships at the fundamental level. Not contending when parenting children is vital to preserve family harmony. But, that does not mean a parent follows behind his kids, except in that he must sense the child’s nature and rule accordingly. Rule through understanding who you are ruling takes precedence over the desire to force conditions to conform to your ideals.
Therefore the sage takes his place over the people yet is no burden;
takes his place ahead of the people yet causes no obstruction. That is why the
empire supports him joyfully and never tires of doing so.
Of course this all splendidly addresses my attempt to rule over my life. I suppose it is the self-idea, or ego, that clings to an idealized world and struggles to force its rule on my instinctual-animal self. Such obstruction never works, but rather leads to a cyclic ‘diet / binge’ syndrome. Humbling my ego self before my primal animal self is the only way out of this battle. I humbly let go of the idealized version of myself (who I want to be), which allows me to accept and understand who I really am, my original nature. Only then can all the various aspects of my nature, instinctual and rational support (me) joyfully and never tire of doing so.
What kind of government model could be no burden nor cause no obstruction? A Libertarian one seems to come closest. But there are too many of us who need to force our ideals on others, which makes the ascension of a libertarian government unlikely.
It is because he does not contend that no one is the empire is in a position to
contend with him.
It takes two to fight. I fight when I must, but often fighting for what I need doesn’t deliver what I seek. It is usually co-operation rather than contention that works out in the long run. Still, sometimes my emotional energies run so high that I contend. I can accept this simply by not contending with the contentious side of my nature. And the more I accept over all, the less I contend in any area of my life.