I just recently published an article titled “What Happened to Wisdom?” A dear friend took the time to read and to comment at length on the article. I greatly value feedback and welcome comments from readers. My friend noted that for years he has read the Tao Te Ching and he cherishes it as a piece of wisdom that guides how he lives his life. He has had some significant losses in his life and I believe he has turned to the Tao at these times for comfort and inspiration.
The writing of the Tao Te Ching is attributed to Lao-tzu, thought to be a contemporary of Confucius around 551–479 B.C.E. Almost nothing is known about him, but the Tao is the second most translated piece of literature in human history after the Bible. This is probably because as Stephen Mitchell writes in the Forward to his translation, (the Tao) is “. . . written in a style of gemlike lucidity, radiant with humor and grace and largeheartedness and deep wisdom: one of the wonders of the world.”
My friend’s comments prodded me to pick up and read the Tao again. This time I opened William Martin’s translation, turned to a previously marked page, and read this:
Attempting to control external events
will never keep us safe.
Control is an illusion.
Whatever we try to control,
we separate from ourselves.
Whatever we try to fix,
Life is sacred,
and flows exactly as it should.
We return to our breathing.
It knows exactly what to do,
rising and falling without conscious control.
In the same way
We sometimes have an excess
and sometimes have a lack.
We sometimes assert ourselves,
and sometimes we hold back,
We sometimes succeed,
and sometimes fail.
Our practice is to see all of this
without taking it too seriously.
That way we do not abandon ourselves.
We remain at peace.
In the previous article, I suggested that acceptance was an element of wisdom and these words from the Tao are all about acceptance and are also echoed in the writings of Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now.
To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad.
Yes, there is wisdom available to us every day in the form of the writings of the mystics, masters, saints, and sages (contemporary and ancient). And sometimes, if you are paying attention, in the form of your friends!