Reflections on Chapter 80 of the Tao Te Ching:
In a small country with few people,
even if they have hundreds of tools,
they will not use them.
They value their lives
and do not wish to go anywhere else.
Even if they have a boat and cars,
they do not wish to use them.
Even if they have weapons,
they do not need to display them.
Let the women use their hands for knitting
instead of writing.
Let them enjoy their food,
keep their clothes beautiful
and be happy in their everyday lives.
Neighbors may hear the roosters crowing
and dogs barking in neighboring cities,
but will live their entire lives
without the need to visit each other
and leave their happy home.
I love this one.
As I was getting ready to record this post, my daughter called me. She was locked out of the house, so she ended up going to the neighbor’s house and using their phone to call me. I told her to go ahead and sit out on the deck until I got home. So I was driving home and thinking about this. I realized that this is precisely the lesson this chapter is teaching us.
I get it.
She had gone to the neighbors to make a call, and I was assuming that she would just go on our deck and not bother the neighbors but what I realized is that my thinking is what was preventing us from being like the people in this chapter. This is the world that we have come to. Maybe not everybody is like us, but I don’t know my neighbors that well that we would just go to their house and hang out.
We are separated.
All our things, our all belongings in this world have created such a separation from each other that we don’t live the way they talk about in this post. In tribal cultures, they don’t need locks on doors. That is just not what their lives are about. They have each other. They work together and share the duties of their daily life. They don’t need, or want, the stuff that we manufacture to make our lives supposedly better.
Why should I fear you when I know you?
When I was a kid, my next door neighbor was a music teacher. I used to go over to her house and just talk to her about stuff. I was about ten, so this was one way for me to branch out and practice my independence. It was nice knowing her. She was kind. She got me interested in music. Why are we afraid of our neighbors? Why are we worried about our things with locking our doors and securing our stuff?
The Tao Te Ching was written 2,500 years ago so clearly there have always been issues with these types of things. There has always been some sense of separation caused by the accumulation of things to own. There are things that you don’t have, you don’t need. Here I was, driving home by myself in my own car. Most of the people I shared the road with were single drivers, driving home from work like me.
Our lives are bigger when we know our neighbors.
We don’t need the stuff around us to protect us from each other. We can raise tomatoes in our garden and share them. We don’t need the stuff around us to distract us from our lives. Let us knit. Let us go back to creating those things that we hold more dearly because we are not separate from the sacrifice that has been made to bring it into existence.
Where did this plastic bottle come from that holds my water?
Where did the water come from? What did it take to get it to my hands to drink it? How much manufacturing went into developing the plastic bottle that holds it? What did it take to get this water clean for me to drink it? Where did those chemicals come from that purified it? Was it filtered? Where did the parts that filter the water come from? Who am I supporting by buying this water?
No. I pick up the bottle, drink the water and toss the water in the bin without a thought to any of those things – most of the time. Am I a horrible human being? No. I am unconscious to the things around me because I have lost touch with my surroundings. I have been separated by layers and layers of stuff.
I just found this great video that illustrates this beautifully… (21:25)
I long to return to the life in this story.
I want a world where the words I have said here are completely foreign because no one thinks that way anymore. I want my readers to say, “Who locks their doors?” and “What kind of a crazy person doesn’t know their neighbors?” I want to know where my hat came from. I want to know the struggle of creating my stuff. I want to thank the chicken that gave its life for my chicken and dumplings.
I want to stay connected.
Tell me I’m crazy. Tell me I’m wrong. Let me be the one who needs to transform my thinking when the rest of the world is sane and happy. I will be happy to have it be so because that will mean that I am the only one lost in this sea of stuff. Tell me what you think. Will you join me in practicing meeting your neighbors and loosening your hold on your stuff? Share with us in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. If you like this post, please share it with the buttons below!