Reflections on Chapter 41 of the Tao Te Ching:
Great people listen to Tao attentively
and live accordingly.
Average people listen to Tao
and are one moment aware,
the next moment unsure.
Below average people listen to Tao and ridicule it.
If they did not laugh, it would not be Tao.
The illuminated way seems dull.
The quickest path to Tao seems slow.
The straight path to Tao seems rough.
The highest virtue seems like a great abyss.
The purest things seems tarnished.
Abundant virtue seems lacking.
Solid virtue seems frail.
True reality seems uncertain.
The perfect square has no corners.
The perfect vessel is not yet finished.
The perfect music is without sound.
The perfect form is without shape.
Tao is hidden, unnamed – yet always brings fulfillment.
How can a square have no corners?
This chapter was a little disturbing to me. No corners? We have a definition of a square. We’ve defined a square as having four corners. That’s what makes a square. But a perfect square has it’s opposite. A perfect anything has it’s opposite.
If you are following the path of Tao and deeply searching for your spiritual roots, there won’t be a lot of other people on the same path. It’s a dedicated thing. Just like there are not a lot of concert pianists. I think that it is really good to recognize that. It is OK to be on any part of the path. It’s all perfect.
Great people are inquisitive.
If you look around, when you see someone who is really dedicated to their own personal development and they are really serious about it, there is a level of respect that is gained from that. I think that what he is saying is that people who are not respecting that will make fun of it. It is human nature to tease people about things that you are not comfortable with. There will be lots of people that will not understand what it is that you are doing in any deep work.
A lot of people feel more comfortable on the surface of things.
They don’t want to dive deeply into things. It feels uncomfortable to them. It is not saying that people that are not following a spiritual practice are not great. They may have their own practice of something else that is deep to them. Everyone has their own thing that speaks to them. They will go deeply into those things and people will make fun of them. If someone is really serious about ice skating and they ice skate five hours every day, someone will make fun of that. It is the nature of that depth of things. People naturally do that. It comes out of a place of people being uncomfortable. Everyone wants to belong, everyone wants to be great. Everyone wants people to think well of them. If they are not really matching up, some people respond by poking fun.
Don’t let that deter you.
Don’t let someone else’s sense of inadequacy put you off your path. Don’t let that happen. There are people out there that do understand what you are doing. Focus your energy there to gain strength. It is just a matter of finding those people and working together with them. The more you stand proudly in your space of depth, the more people will respect you for it.
What do you think? What did this chapter mean to you? Please tell us in the comments below.