Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 60
Governing a big country is like frying a small fish
Hmm, this sounds like a set up for a punch line in a bad joke. But the punch line is:
Thus use Dao to govern all under heaven
Okay, that’s better. Using Dao (Tao) as a governing principle is a theme of the Tao Te Ching. It can apply to actual government, and can apply just as well to how we govern ourselves. And as with cooking a small fish, less is more.
Think about the proliferation of laws we have in the United States at all levels of government. Our answer to many problems is to make up more rules and then try to enforce them. We do this in our legislatures, in our communities, in our families, and with ourselves. And how is that working for us?
I’m not suggesting that we toss out all the rules. I am wondering, though, if we look to rules to solve problems that rules can’t solve, or can’t solve well.
A friend related a story about leading a meeting during which a woman was being disruptive and obnoxious. Feeling responsible for the governance of the meeting, he approached her during a break, intending to confront her about her behavior and to insist that she change her behavior or leave. Instead, at the last minute, he shifted his perspective and asked her if she was all right. After a brief exchange, she broke down in tears and shared with him a challenge she was experiencing. Feeling heard, understood, and respected, she was able to release her combative stance and engage in a more productive way.
Either way, he would have prevented further disruption. But look at the different outcomes. He chose to focus on connection rather than content, on understanding rather than force, on relationship rather than judgment.
This chapter goes on to observe that “demons” have no power when Dao is the guiding principle. Force and resistance feed conflict and opposition. In contrast, Dao follows the natural flow of energy in the universe.
Thus harmony and peace are integrated and restored
This works just as well in our individual lives. Recently I was struggling with a situation that churned up a lot of emotion for me. My initial response was to try to control the situation, to direct an outcome of my choice, to force others to comply. Not surprisingly, I was not very successful, and even to the extent that I was, my emotional turmoil was not alleviated.
I’d like to say I got smart, but what I got was exhausted. And finally, I just stopped fighting. I let go of what I couldn’t control (most everything), and focused on regaining internal alignment and equanimity. And what do you know – once released from my desperate interference, everything began to unfold in a natural way. True, not entirely to my liking, but in a way I could see was inevitable and perhaps for the best.
I’m cooking a small fish for dinner.
For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. ~Larry Eisenberg