When peace is made between great enemies,
Some enmity is bound to remain undispelled.
How can this be considered perfect?
How can this be considered perfect? is another way of saying that it is just the way it is, i.e., nature’s way is not influenced by our wishes. The ideal of perfect peace is one of mankind’s many illusions. Life is much easier to cope with now that I’ve dropped many of these ideals and just do what needs doing—or more likely DON’T DO. Circumstances have a marvelous way of working out if I don’t mess with them, but instead just see the various forces at work—take the left hand tally as it were.
From the Taoist viewpoint I would expect that some enmity is bound to remain undispelled. Enmity is the complement of amity; they produce each other just as Something and Nothing produce each other [see ch. 2]. If I expect a life of amity without enmity, I’m going against natural reality—the way—and I will find no peace!
The trick is to set aside my ideals so I can see the ultra perfection of reality. When I can, I sense an eternal peace. Now why can’t I maintain this vision constantly? Ahhh! Such a desire to do so arises from my naive, emotionally based expectations of perfection. But, of course, this is just fine, isn’t it—great perfection seems chipped [see ch. 45].
Therefore the sage takes the left-hand tally, but exacts no payment from thepeople.
The man of virtue takes charge of the tally;
The man of no virtue takes charge of exaction.
Taking a tally, but exacting no payment is my experience of forgiveness. When someone wrongs me, I can’t ignore that; I must acknowledge it—tally it. However, when I can discern the big picture, i.e., the way of heaven, I’m better able to avoid the vengeful need to exact payment. Forgiveness does not require me to forget, nor to even associate.
It is very difficult to take charge of the tally without taking charge of exaction. Emotionally, the later naturally follows the former. I find that I must struggle to hold the deepest perspective my inner sage knows, if I’m to avoid being drawn into exaction. Indeed, Everyone in the world knows yet no one can put this knowledge into practice; [see ch. 78] really fits this dilemma, for even if I see the truth, I still get drawn in emotionally to some extent. And this is okay… after all, I am human.
Of course this also corresponds to how I treat myself. Once I begin taking tally on myself, I’m tempted to exact payment and beat up on myself. No wonder it is hard to be self honest! It’s so much easier to tally up others.
The main motivation for action is desire—need. When I see this as the well spring of our actions, I know we are all helplessly being thrust into such actions by our needs. It’s not personal, and in fact it can be very poignant if not downright sad. It is only when I lose this perspective that I judge, hold grudges and take charge of exaction. I become as driven as the person I’m judging. As Christ put it—’judge not, least thee be judged’.
My depth of virtue rests on the breadth of my perspective. When I know the way of heaven, I’m naturally more virtuous in my deeds. When perspective narrows, virtue goes down the tube. Virtue is based in how I view things, not in what I do.
When I attempt to takes charge of the tally, I need to bring my deepest and broadest perspective to bear. There is a whole chain of ‘karmic’ cause and effect that underlies any current circumstances; a chain that goes right back to the ‘big bang’ itself. When my view is broad, I find no one from whom to take exaction. Any lust for exaction is driven by my emotional biases and is based in ignorance.
It is the way of heaven to show no favouritism.
It is for ever on the side of the good man.
A good example of favoritism is nepotism. The exchanging of favor isn’t based in merit, but in need—desire. It seems much of human interaction stems from this. We are only upset by it when such favoritism is not going our way.
Favoritism serves as an important glue of social interactions—tribalism. I find that as I leave tribal affiliations behind, I’m more able to know and become one with the way of heaven. It is like leaving a smaller club to join a larger, cosmic one. I give up some emotional intimacy for deeper spiritual connection.
Favoritism comes from wanting to ‘stack the deck’ in a particular direction. The way of heaven is omni-directional—it owns the deck, it is the deck.
Forever on the side of the good man brings to mind the Christian concept ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. Heaven is neutral and simply upholds the law of consequences. If I live a destructive life I’m more likely to be destroyed; it’s nothing personal from heaven’s point of view. It’s just carrying on the business of the universe.
Isn’t paying attention the foundation of the good man. When I’m not watchful, I suffer natural consequences; have accidents, eat too much pizza, put my foot in my mouth, and so on… When I’m aware, life goes pretty smoothly—the way of heaven is on my side. The same goes for us all. For example, when the mouse is alert, it escapes the cat. When the mouse’s attention lapses, the cat eats, as long as it’s paying attention and times its attack well.
How I approach life determines what I get out of it. It’s not what I do, it’s how I do it, that decides how good I feel. This reminds me of a quote from Blake: ‘If you would do good, you must do it in minute particulars’.
Good deeds are a natural out flow of a good inner world. Likewise, evil action reflects inner chaos. When I’m in a bad mood, I tend to act badly—and visa versa. The bad deeds that we seek to exact punishment for are in truth only symptoms of a punishing inner world. This is so obvious, and yet we so easily clamor for exaction. This, likewise, must be a result of our own inner misery. This parallels Christ’s teaching: ‘judge not least thee be judged’. More to the point, it seems that when I judge, I’m in the same position as the one I’m judging; I can’t judge without being a hypocrite!