Lao Tzu

From the sixth century BCE, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 72:

When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster.

Do not intrude in their homes.
Do not harass them at work.
If you do not interfere, they will not weary of you.

Therefore the sage knows himself but makes no show.
Has self-respect but is not arrogant.
He lets go of that and chooses this.

Here's my three sentence version:

A lack of respect invites destruction.
People will not tolerate an intrusive government.
A wise man is humble and chooses well.

This seems to me a passage about the virtue of government by not doing. What people want from their rulers, more than anythings else, is to be left alone. A king, pasha, sultan, or president is not served by drawing attention to himself. Loud pronouncements of smug "understanding" are particularly odious because they do little to benefit the people.

If given a choice, we should therefore exalt a leader that doesn't have a grand agenda, and then tell him to shut up.

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9 Responses to Lao Tzu

  1. jaklumen says:

    I appreciate the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching, having read it a few times, but… I weary of the diatribe and rant in this interpretation.So too do these words apply to every individual with an opinion– for the ideal balance is an invitation of ideas. Passion must be tempered with wisdom and restraint. And while matters of state affect every individual, let he who has wisdom build up his own community.emily sears's post here speaks volumes. A quote:Politicans aren't our good examples; we are. It starts right here in this spot, not far off in a legislative building. Talk your walk and walk your talk…..Think for yourself, act for yourself and others, and don't depend on
    these people to fix the world you live in. After all, they're the ones
    largely responsible for screwing it up. That won't really change until
    people stop depending on a central power to make everything pretty and
    right and fair… The government is a behemoth eating its own tail. It was
    put in place to serve us, but we end up serving it.

  2. Doug says:

    I don't expect this government to fix everything. They are clearly not capable of it. And I suppose I am somewhat foolish in expecting public servants to serve the public, but there it is. At this point I would settle for leaders that aren't making things worse through arrogance and a false sense of mandate.

  3. jaklumen says:

    Physician, heal thyself.I did not say that there was anything wrong in expecting the government to do its job. What I said was that there is much value in working on matters of self, family, and community compared to worrying too much how the nation and the world is handling things.A building's strength depends on its foundations and is built from the ground up. It stands to reason, then, that fortification starts with ourselves and with the people immediately around us, in ties of blood, fraternity, camaraderie, and deep friendship.

  4. Doug says:

    Lao Tzu would say we are thus working in harmony with our surroundings and not in opposition to them, which is a worthy trait in all organisms. I would extend that to say that government can help us do that by leaving us alone.

  5. jaklumen says:

    government can help us do that by leaving us aloneIgnore their intrusions.There is NO one on the planet that can rob you of your agency/freedom to choose, and you can change NO one but yourself.Many, many, answers begin with asking the one in the mirror. The Tao is an incredibly introspective discipline, and so I say that it is best understood by looking within before looking without. It does little good to point the finger unless that finger is ultimately pointing at yourself.Build upon your own rock, to paraphrase Yeshu of Nazareth, and not upon the shifting sands of others.

  6. Cimmorene says:

    "Ultimately, the only person standing in the way of your happiness is yourself," Unknown

  7. Doug says:

    When I first started thinking about this I was searching through bible passages because I thought Jesus would have some parallel ideas; living in harmony with nature, not striving for worldly goods, and so on. But as I researched it I found the cultural milieu too different for useful comparison. So I'm still reading and looking for parallels, even if they be more subtle than I thought.There is much to be said for self-sufficiency, and much virtue in being grounded in yourself and your peers.

  8. Doug says:

    Probably Eleanor Roosevelt "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." She was a great lady.

  9. jaklumen says:

    Some have postulated that he traveled the Silk Road, and that his teachings were a fusion of the aesthetics of Buddhism with the backbone of Judaism.Personally, I think there are truths that are timeless and ultimately not bound to a culture, but consideration of Eastern philosophy has generally helped me understand principles of my own faith better.Some would call this a Western-minded corruption, but it suffices me.

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