Monday, August 28, 2017
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 31
Although disjointed and repetitive, lacking the grace and poetry of other chapters (some scholars think this chapter was corrupted somehow), we can nevertheless consider the basic message:
Weapons are tools of violence and fear
Wise people avoid them
Using them only when there is no other recourse
Never celebrating victory
Grieving for the fallen
As it says in The Art of War, the best battle is the one not fought. When I taught contract drafting in law school, my students would tell me that they wanted to draft a contract that would “win in court.” I always told them, “If your contract ends up in court, you have already lost. You are only in court when the purpose of the contract has failed. Even if you win in court, your original objective will not be achieved.”
Looking back at my personal life, I can’t think of one argument I’ve had with anyone that left me feeling good about fighting. Even if I got the desired outcome, I paid a price. I lost a friendship, perhaps, or hurt someone, or felt my energy drained. There was rarely pleasure in victory. In reviewing a dispute, I can often see something I could have done differently to still get the desired outcome or a reasonable compromise, and leave both sides feeling less battered by the process.
Having said all that, I confess that I do love martial arts weapons. I love the grace and skill involved, and yes, I also love the combat aspect, even though I have absolutely no desire to engage in actual combat. It seems contradictory, but I know that practicing martial arts over the years has taught me more about peace than about fighting.
So perhaps we can consider in our own lives what we really gain by fighting, and what we lose. And perhaps we can pause for a moment before engaging to see if there is a better way.
Don't fight a battle if you don't gain anything by winning. ~General Patton