Reflections on Chapter 30 of the Tao Te Ching:
When one leads people
by the way of the Tao,
Force and military strength
are not recommended –
There is usually retaliation.
Thorns and brambles appear
where armies are stationed.
Famine is often the aftermath of war.
A skillful commander
achieves her purpose and then stops,
Not venturing to take the path of force.
She achieves her purpose and does not boast,
She achieves her purpose and does not criticize,
She achieves her purpose and is not proud,
She achieves her purpose with reluctance,
She achieves her purpose without the use of force.
Over development is unnatural and hastens decay.
Not being of Tao, it comes to an early end.
I love the line in this chapter about the thorn and brambles growing where armies are stationed. I think that this line is the key to this chapter.
A rough brambly exterior grows from a need for revenge.
You can feel it in people. To relate it to a story in my own life, about fifteen years ago or so, my mom and my sister were having some challenges. My sister had stopped speaking to my mom and my mom was naturally upset about it. There was nothing my mom could do to get her to speak to her. She was really upset. This went on for months. My sister and I have always been very close and my mom and I were together for some time. She had come down to North Carolina where I lived at the time and was helping me with some very big changes that were taking place in my life at that time and I was very grateful for her. So I was torn between the two of them with this problem. At some point during this time with my mom, she was asking me about my sister and she was very angry with my sister. The energy she held toward my sister was very dark and brittle. When I spoke to my sister about my mom, her energy was different. It was not dark like that. Now, granted, it is not possible to know all the scenarios of what people are living into. I was only looking at the energy of the situation. I thought it was a very interesting example of this. We get very upset, and understandably so. There is always some very valid reason for our upset. But what I think we need to learn to do as a society, as people, is to look more deeply at the energy of things than what is coming out on the surface. We are fooled by the surface, especially with ourselves. You love someone, but how are you being towards them? If you are being negative and snippy, that is a problem. You need to face that. We all do. I don’t think that there is a person reading this that has not had an experience where you have been ugly to someone. We all have done that. If someone did say that they have never been ugly to anyone, that would be their ugliness right there! It is just how it is.
In this chapter, he is talking about military strength. This little book spans over the lifetime of mankind – as far back as you can go since we’ve been writing things down. The principles have flowed across that time and there is still such relevance. In Chapter 17, we talked about leadership. In this chapter, it touches back on it in a slightly different vein.
In the United States, we pride ourselves in having a strong military.
It is hard when you are a fish in water, to know how others perceive you. I think that is one of the values of traveling internationally and getting involved online is getting to know other cultures. It does help you to understand how we appear to other people, as a nation. This is important for all people to understand this. Our belief systems are under the surface of everything that we do. Different countries tend to have very different belief systems. There can be things that other countries have and you can learn from that.
Just the concept of military brings up this defensive, sort of guarded “aarrgh” (like a pirate). A take charge sort of feeling. So what are you trying to do, as a nation? Are you trying to take over other places? I don’t know that Barack Obama is really into that, but Bush certainly was. We are one of the largest countries and I am not sure right now if I would call us one of the most successful countries, but we have certainly done well as a country. There are a lot of things that I am proud of with the U.S. There are a lot of things that I am proud of. If we can focus on those things, it would be good.
I see a country as a macrocosm of an individual.
In some ways, I am not what my country stands for, but in other ways I totally am. I accept that about myself. I understand that this is my limitation. It’s a part of me. That is why I think that it is really important to pay attention. One thing that I am really not proud of is the merging of business and health. That is frightening. I am really upset by how the food in our country has been degraded by chemical stuff. Those are things that I don’t stand for that our country represents.
There are incongruencies between my self-perception and the perception of the me that is my country.
Just by talking about it here, I am doing something about it. It isn’t a lot, but it is something. I would like to do more. Another similar issue is the pharmaceutical companies and the government. I believe that we have a dangerous relationship going on there that is affecting the very health of our nation and of the individuals in our nation. Although I very much disagree with these concepts, they are a part of me because I am a part of this country. They are something that I must accept about myself or work to change. I vote “work to change”, but not in a “fist held high” sort of way. That is black on black. No. I will fight with my wallet. I will fight by not taking prescriptions drugs into my body unless I feel that it is life threatening. I will fight by eating healthy organic foods as much as possible. I am responsible for myself. I do not need force. I only need to redirect my own path and the river changes.
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