He who is fearless in being bold will meet with his death;
He who is fearless in being timid will stay alive.
Of the two, one leads to good, the other to harm.
I know the quality of my timidity by whether I’m being brave and facing life or being cowardly and trying to avoid it. When I’m brave, yet tentative, as if fording a river in winter [see ch. 15]., I’m trying to act from knowledge of the constant [see ch. 16]. It is not my actions, but the attitude from where those actions originate that matter. So often we judge the books by their covers.
My fearless in being bold has its roots in my urge to counterbalance the fearful timid side of my nature. As I face these fears and let go, I have less need to be bold. It is as though the outer world is but a reflection of a unseen inner opposite.
If I am fearless in being timid I’ll stay alive, right”? It helps, but the next verse below offers a bit of a disclaimer. The young are often fearless in being bold and yet most survive. And those fearless in being timid can still end up dead. It’s an imperfect world, much to our dismay.
Heaven hates what it hates,
Who knows the reason why?
Therefore even the sage treats some things as difficult.
People often expect goodness to be rewarded by good fortune, as it were. But, in fact nature doesn’t care about my goodness—it is ruthless. Heaven and earth are ruthless, and treat the myriad creatures as straw dogs[see ch. 5]. In fact, any goodness expressed is merely a symptom of my inner peace, and visa versa. I’m no more deserving of any good fortune I have, than others who are beset by great misfortune. Indeed, Heaven hates what it hates, Who knows the reason why?
It has been very helpful to let go of the notion that I can escape misfortune by clever planning. Of course, some planning is prudent, but in the end I realize that what I do can’t insure protection from Heavens ruthlessness. Life is difficult.
This verse could just as easily say Heaven LOVES what it LOVES, Who knows the reason why?. We often need to attribute good fortune as a consequence of something we did right, i.e., good karma, God’s reward. But really, aren’t some just blessed by good genes and/or circumstance and others less so. It’s just a matter of chance, which we hate. So we attempt to stack the odds in our favor by clinging to various superstitions.
We love the myth that the enlightened sage, the cool dude, escapes all the difficulties of life. As long as we hold out hope of escape, we avoid the true face of nature—or do we do this BECAUSE we’re unable to hold the great image [see ch. 35].
The difficult and the easy complement each other[see ch. 2]. Thus, the more we cling on to the easy, the more difficulty we carry on our backs. The myriad creatures carry on their backs the yin and embrace in their arms the yang and are the blending of the generative forces of the two [see ch. 42].
The way of heaven
Excels in overcoming though it does not contend,
In responding though it does not speak,
In attracting though it does not summon,
In laying plans though it appears slack.
The net of heaven is cast wide. Though the mesh is not fine, yet nothing ever
I notice that I only really excel in overcoming when I don’t contend. When I try too hard to succeed, success is harder to come by. This reminds me of beginner’s luck. As a beginner, I don’t expect much so I let things happen naturally and can achieve surprising results. Then I start contending and there goes the luck. Then it’s just sweat from there on out until I can return to a non contending attitude.
Qualities exist that naturally attract—no effort to summon is needed. Thus, some will be attracted to who I naturally am. If I try to make myself more attractive I’m in danger of living a lie. This need to summon attention lies in an inner sense of desperation and isolation. As I become more joined to the way, I’m less lonely. I ‘m content to simply attract who I’m naturally meant to attract.
It’s almost as if we struggle to contend and overcome as a way of avoiding taking responsibility for our own natures. It is just easier for me to judge and correct ‘your’ imperfections than it is to deal with my own inner realities. He who overcomes others has force; He who overcomes himself is strong [see ch. 33].
I push myself to overcome by contending with all obstacles before me. Society admires this tenacious approach. But, it really originates in a deep sense of insecurity. I NEED to win because I’m missing something intrinsically important to being. After years of this struggle I realized that however many battles I won, I never won the war nor lasting security. I found that security only comes when I surrender—In the union of the world, The female always gets the better of the male by stillness. Being still, she takes the lower position. [see ch. 61].