Reflections on Chapter 34 of the Tao Te Ching:
The Great Tao is like the ocean –
It flows in all directions.
It gives life to the Ten Thousand Things,
yet does not claim authority.
When work is done,
it claims no credit.
It clothes the Ten Thousand Things,
yet does not want to be its leader.
it is considered insignificant.
The Ten Thousand Things call it home,
but do not make it their master.
It can be called great
because it does not strive to be great.
Thus, it achieves the path of greatness.
The Tao is part of everything.
This chapter is about allowing things to flow through you. You can’t really claim it and say, “I created this.” Take this translation, for example…I am writing down the words that are there, but I can’t really say that they are mine because clearly they are not! It’s a translation. But that goes for nearly everything that we create.
We don’t own our creations.
What is interesting about this whole sweet little book is that every single person who has written these words is a translator, so no one can claim that these words are theirs. That is how it’s meant to be. That is Tao. This is what he is talking about in chapter 34.
The Tao is an energy that flows through you.
Everybody is a creator and nobody is one. You can stand in that place of ownership, but you have to be careful. If you stand in that power and greatness and you claim it, you sometimes look kinda silly. But if you stand in the power and the greatness and you don’t claim it, you might say “Look. This isn’t me. This is something much greater than me and I am grateful.” Many artists do this. Once you get to the top of your game, you find you don’t really need to claim it. That is a clue that you are on the right track.
Here is a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Eat, Pray, Love gained phenomenal success, but in this talk, Elizabeth shares the perils of taking your creative genius too seriously. I will let you watch the video to get the full gist because we are basically saying the same thing and I just love this talk.
Artists sometimes get afraid of their own talent.
It’s really just coming through them, but they don’t have an understanding of that. They are taught that it is them so they get stuck there. They get stuck in that ownership. They feel responsible. People tend to admire talent, especially truly inspired talent. Sometimes they appreciate it too much. I am not sure if I would ever want to be famous because of that. Some people get a little freaky around people they admire. I imagine that must have been how Jesus or the Buddha felt much of the time! “I am not that special,” they probably said many many times. “You can do this too!” They might have said to apparently deaf ears. Oh well! [Shrug.] They’ll get it one day!
Ever notice how people just love it when you are at your game?
When people are really successful, everyone wants to be a part of that – even if it is vicariously. That is part of why we are fascinated by actors. The ones that have made it have gone through a lot. Even though are there a lot of actors, there are only a few that are famous. So we have an admiration of that. We have an admiration of sports people who are really on their game. The people in those positions, if you spoke with them, they are either going to own it or they are not. They will either take responsibility for it or they will not. They may attribute it to luck or say that it is just coming through them. They will most likely say that it is from somewhere other than themselves. The ones who say that it is from them will have a much more difficult time. That is what we are talking about here. The way that is best for your spirit is to let it go through you. Don’t try to capture it. Don’t try to force it to be anything. Especially in other people. Just enjoy the gift. In yourself and in others!
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