the right fear

When we don’t fear what we should fear
we are in fearful danger.
We ought not to live in narrow houses,
we ought not to do stupid work.

If we don’t accept stupidity
we won’t act stupidly.
So, wise souls know but don’t show themselves,
look after but don’t prize themselves,
letting the one go, keeping the other.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

This poem is quite simple, and quite straightforward: don’t waste your time.

I’d add to that: don’t waste the time of others.

It’s fine if others believe you’re stupid or only doing stupid work. Such is the fate of a Taoist! (or anyone, really) Find what you think is important and do that. It doesn’t matter what others think.

There’s also no point in fearing so much. There are things we should fear, and I’d qualify those things as the several existential threats to our species (nuclear war, ecological disaster, mass extinctions, etc). There are, of course, more immediate dangers, depending on who you are. Disease and such things are worth being fearful of when you’re at a high risk for such things. For example, it’s become apparent to me that I will likely develop epilepsy later in life. Of course, my fear of that is tempered by the distance from it, and the fact that I can do things about it now to make sure it doesn’t hit me overly hard in the future.

But there are so many things we fear. Social media exacerbates this kind of neurotic tendency. Everything has never been more pressing of a concern! Russia’s destroying the american dream of democracy! Trump’s tax returns to be released, and they’re a doozy! Kale is bad for you! Quinoa is bad for indigenous farmers! Ice in your cup is environmental waste! Almond milk is a scam!

Then the things we should probably be more afraid of go without much comment. Like the CIA acting unilaterally with regard to drones. Our education and healthcare systems, bad as they were, are being gutted while we flail over the topic of the day.

Part of resistance is acting carefully. Acting in a way that prevents damage to us. Running after every new presidential rumor does all of us more harm than good.

Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste the time of others.

Be well.