Reflections on Chapter 78 of the Tao Te Ching:
In the world,
nothing is softer than water,
yet it is the best thing for wearing down hard things.
Its yielding defeats the strong,
its softness defeats the hardness.
Everyone knows this,
but few can practice it.
The sage says that
she who honors the world’s troubles
is fit to govern the world.
She who takes on the disasters of the world
deserves to become the queen.
These words are paradoxical.
Water carves Grand Canyons – yet is light, fluid and non-descript.
Water doesn’t demand a lot. It just goes in there and gets it done. You don’t say, “Hey, look at that water!” unless you are at a waterfall enjoying its beauty or unless you are in a desert and haven’t seen a drink in a day. It is at this point that its power becomes apparent.
We take water for granted.
The energy of some people, like water, flows over and smoothes things out. These sorts of people don’t demand a lot. They hold great power because everyone needs them. This power is subtle because people don’t consciously recognize the need. Their power is realized later when it is gone or missing.
This soft power may also be called Mother.
The mother honors the world’s troubles. She faces them square on, bravely. In staring at the world’s problems, she recognizes her power but does nothing to harness it. She understands that her power is not hers to own, but the power of the Universe flowing through her. In this way, her power is both limitless and manageable.
Artists have this power too.
Any form of art, whether it be painting or hitting a hole-in-one at the golf course, is utilizing this power when it is done well. We call it flow. We wear down the craft until it is refined to a very smooth surface. Like sanding a piece of wood, we start out rough and with work and care, we smooth it down to a glass-like surface.
All things smooth out with care, attention and time.
Our rough patches are wars, arguments and melancholy. Our sandpaper is understanding, self-reflection and compassion. Over time, wounds heal and we can move on.