Reflections on Chapter 36 of the Tao Te Ching:
If something has expanded,
it will soon contract.
If something has been weakened,
it was once overly strong.
If something was thrown away,
it was surely once admired too much.
If something is to be received,
it must first be given.
This is the wisdom of obscurity.
The soft and weak
will overcome the strong and forceful.
Small fish stay deep and survive.
A country thrives
when its weapons are not displayed.
Everything is duality.
Everything is it’s opposite. In this chapter, Lao Tzu refers to excess. If something is overly strong, it is weakened. If something has been thrown away, it has been admired too much.
It’s like a good song on the radio.
You listen to it and you listen to it and you listen to it and you eventually just don’t like anymore. Sometimes I think of this when I see new couples. If they are really intense, I worry for them because if they are really intense it may end just as quickly.
It has been said many times in many ways throughout the Tao Te Ching about this. You don’t want to go so far that you lose that energy. You can’t help it sometimes. Sometimes that is just how things are. There is nothing you can do about it. Just notice when you feel that energy getting away on you. It can be good or it can be bad, but when you feel that really intense energy about something, just know that it is going to come back the other way. The more intense it is, the more likely it is going to come back the other way.
What this is really teaching us is to avoid the drama.
Avoid the drama. The really intense things come back to bite you. They are exciting, but I think overall they are just not as healthy for you as an experience. The drama is fun. It is fun to have something wild and crazy happening! It is all good. It is all just what it is, but it is just important to remember that it won’t last long like that. It will burn itself out.
It is just the nature of how that stuff works.
One of the things that I thought about when I was working with this chapter is consumerism. In the U.S., we just have so many things. We just have so much stuff. Look at how much trash we have! That is how it is reflected back. You buy so many things and you have so many things and so much of it ends up in the trash heap.
It is just loads of trash.
I was putting out the recycling the other day and it was getting full. I was thinking, “How is it possible that we are getting rid of this much paper and stuff in such a short amount of time?” I think if we had to have a trash pile next to our house of all the trash that we’ve made, we might be a little better about it. We might not be as insistent of having things packaged the way that they are. Sometimes I will buy something at the store and it has a plastic wrapper inside of a sealed plastic thing inside of another sealed plastic thing inside of a cardboard box. What?!
Do we really need this much paper or plastic?
Some of the stuff that is coming out these days is kinda nice because it seems like they are trying to save money and it actually ends up being better for the environment too. Who needs all that packaging? We don’t need all that packaging? Individually wrapped cheese slices… who needs individually wrapped cheese slices?
Maybe we can think of ways to wrap our food that is more friendly? Or just not wrap it? When I eat a meal at a restaurant or something, I use lots of napkins. I don’t like eating without my napkins. So I guess I am a waster too. I could use cloth.
Laundry is another issue. How many times do you wash something. A napkin, sure. But how many times do you wear your clothes before washing them? My husband has helped me to learn this one because he does the laundry and hates it when I just throw stuff in there.
OK, so enough of my green rant.
I could go on for decades. It is just so sad. I was reading a post the other day and I don’t have the link or anything, but it was this city that was abandoned in the 1920s in Turkey or Greece or somewhere. A whole city. This photo was taken of this city and there was this huge cathedral. I was looking at it and thinking that someone could live there. It was so beautiful and completely empty. No one has lived there since the 1920s. I can only imagine what happened there that no one would want to live there.
So I’ve gotten off on quite the tangent, but I will bring it back. I especially like the last line of this chapter…
A country thrives when its weapons are not displayed.
With all of the passion and drama created by war, it is very alluring. I was watching something the other day on television and it was like watching a train wreck. It was a show about some big dramatic political thing and I found myself getting all charged up about it. My fist was getting all excited and I was like, “Yeah!” That act was like displaying my weapons. That action will be the downfall of a country. When I was reading The School of Sun Tzu, one of the beautiful things that really stuck out to me was how this beautiful country had managed to change their entire philosophy from total raging wars to peace. Granted, it was a long time ago, but it gave me hope. We speak of world peace like it is just a pipe dream, like it could never happen.
I think it can.
I think that it is like the recycling. You just change your habits. You stop buying the crap that is covered in four layers of plastic and the food that has chemical crap on it and you stop getting all excited about war. I saw this great quote the other day on a post in the Tricycle blog by Mother Teresa.
“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
That is an excellent article that really fits what I am talking about here, so I highly suggest that you read it.
So what do you think? What are your thoughts on this chapter? Please add your comments below. We love to talk about this stuff with you!