returning to the root

Be completely empty.
Be perfectly serene.
The ten thousand things arise together;
in their arising is their return.
Now they flower,
and flowering
sink homeward,
returning to the root.

The return to the root
is peace.
Peace: to accept what must be,
to know what endures.
In that knowledge is wisdom.
Without it, ruin, disorder.

To know what endures
is to be openhearted,
following the Tao,
the way that endures forever.
The body comes to its ending,
but there is nothing to fear.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin

I love this poem. I love its promise of beauty. I love its promise of nothingness. In most ideologies, death leads to a reward or punishment. But the Tao does nothing like that. It asks us to accept that death is the end, and that there’s nothing to fear there. That the end of your body does not mean the end of life or beauty. That death is part of all of this.

We do not endure, but the Tao does. We accept our ending, and so find tranquility.

Life doesn’t end because we die. The Tao doesn’t falter because of our absence. We are just parts of the whole. We are born, and we flower. Then we wilt and die, and our death creates the opportunity for more growth.

I don’t have much more to say than that. I just love this poem. Le Guin’s thoughts are interesting, too, and I’ll leave you with them:

To those who will not admit morality without a deity to validate it, or spirituality of which man is not the measure, the firmness of Lao Tzu’s morality and the sweetness of his spiritual consul must seem incomprehensible, or illegitimate, or very troubling indeed.

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