Hold fast to the great thought
and all the world will come to you,
harmless, peaceable, serene.
Walking around, we stop
for music, for food.
But if you taste the Way
it’s flat, insipid.
It looks like nothing much,
it sounds like nothing much.
And yet you can’t get enough of it.
Makes me think of the old adage don’t judge a book by its cover.
Though the Tao appears as the mundane, the insipid, the bland, it contains all things. It is vast and incomprehensible and beautiful. But to our senses, it seems like very little. It seems like a leaf or a grain of sand of a garden in winter. And yet, we always want more of it. We always return to it. It fulls us up in ways that are hard to describe, hard to justify. It’s a necessity but we don’t see or hear or smell or taste it that way.
This is what we strive for too. It’s not to be simple or ordinary–for the Tao asks us also to be different–but to be non-invasive with our differences. Don’t shout them from the rooftops or dress to be noticed.
It reminds of a moment from the show House where he’s meant to be looking for Cameron’s replacement. A dude with a ponytail and tattoos gets turned down from the job and his response to House is that he would’ve thought House would be fine with some non-comformity. House scoffs and tells him if he wants to be a real non-conformist he should be like the kids who spend all day in the library studying their medical textbooks, because those are the people who really don’t care what you think of them.
Which is interesting in that it’s true, and it’s essentially what the Tao asks of us. I mean, it’s not to study all day. But to be fine with seeming clumsy and foolish and out of sync with the world, because following the Tao seems strange to people. Not because it’s obvious who follows the Tao just by looking at them, but because it asks us to fall back into the rhythm of the natural world.
And, sure, there’s a discussion to be had about what natural means, since we, as humans, are a natural part of the world and because we’re a natural part of the world, everything we do is natural because how could it not be?
But to argue about semantics is to really miss the point of the Tao Te Ching. What the Tao asks of us is to find that stillness, that serenity, that beauty that the earth teaches us. The earth, the wind, the sea. There’s great beauty, great feeling–there is greatness there. To be like water.
These are values to aspire.
Greatness comes to us when we follow the Tao because the Tao is a generative process, source.