Without Weapons?

by Christopher Lovejoy on March 31, 2013

At one time in my life, I was a competitive fencer. I fenced varsity and attended more than a few competitions. I even won a few matches.

Today, I doubt that I could ever pick up a foil and get much enjoyment from sparring with anyone. Those days are gone. I can, however, still respect those who would take up the challenge.

A sport that requires a weapon to develop concentration is one thing. Using a weapon to kill or destroy is quite another. If the first is a tool of discipline, then the second is a tool of violence.

Unfortunately, acts of physical violence are sometimes justified. I mean, who could argue with someone who reacted with physical force, with the intention of protecting a defenseless child?

The defensive use of physical weapons in civil society is obviously contentious, but if you care to listen closely without prejudice, you’ll find sound arguments on both sides of the barrel or blade.

The use of verbal weapons in self-defense is less contentious, but even here, a double-edged sword appears when arguments become heated and a boundary is crossed into cruelty.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 31

“Guns don’t kill people; people do.”

This provocative line reminds me of a common confusion that swirls around money: to wit, it’s not that money is the root of all evil, it’s that a love of money is the root of all evil.

For anyone who can still think critically, objects and subjects are distinct: a gun is not a combatant; money is not an evildoer.

By themselves, guns can’t kill anyone; by itself, money can never be the cause of evil. For guns to kill or for money to cause evil requires an energetic signature called “a conscious intention”.

Wherein lies the motivation to form a certain intention? Wherein lies the energy to be motivated in a certain direction?

We would do well to hold these questions in mind as we mull the wisdom in the words that follow …

Weapons
are tools of violence;
all decent persons
detest them.
Therefore,
followers of the Tao
never use them.

Arms serve evil.
They are the tools of those
who oppose wise rule.
Use them only as a last resort.
For peace and quiet are dearest
to the hearts of those who are decent,
and to them, even a victory
is no cause for rejoicing.

Those who think
triumph beautiful
are those with a will to kill,
and those with a will to kill
shall never prevail
upon the world.

It is a good sign
when our higher nature
comes forward,
a bad sign
when our lower nature
comes forward.

With the slaughter
of multitudes,
we have grief and sorrow.
Every victory is a funeral;
if you win a war,
you celebrate by mourning.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Many controversial, ambiguous, and simplistic viewpoints are expressed here.

Let’s break them down and build them up again in the next section.

My Impressions of the Verse

My general impression of this verse is that it’s not very precise and not very well articulated.

You’ll see what I mean as I share my impressions of each stanza.

Weapons
are tools of violence;
all decent persons
detest them.
Therefore,
followers of the Tao
never use them.

Weapons used as tools of discipline provide opportunities for personal growth and development.

Weapons used as tools of violence provide a lawful means to defend against unlawful incursions against life, liberty, or property.

Weapons of violence used defensively can be justified, at least to some extent, depending on the nature of the weapon and the actions taken.

Weapons of violence used offensively to kill or destroy requires a much broader context of justification (if such a context is even justifiable without crossing a line into brutality or tyranny).

Weapons of violence used gratuitously to kill or destroy has no justification whatsoever.

By themselves, weapons of violence are not detestable; those who use them intentionally but without just cause are detestable – and decent persons are sometimes justified in detesting them (the wielders not the weapons).

Followers of the Tao would do well to heed these distinctions.

Arms serve evil.
They are the tools of those
who oppose wise rule.
Use them only as a last resort.
For peace and quiet are dearest
to the hearts of those who are decent,
and to them, even a victory
is no cause for rejoicing.

Arms, intentionally and gratuitously employed, serve evil; these are the tools of those who act in spite of wise counsel. Defensively employed, arms are best used only as a last resort. This is common sense (or would be if we lived in a world of common sense).

Those who think
triumph beautiful
are those with a will to kill,
and those with a will to kill
shall never prevail
upon the world.

Too many books, movies, and video games glorify violence, priming the minds of those would kill, maim, and destroy with pleasure both perverse and triumphant, while numbing the poor souls who get lost inside of it all.

It is a good sign
when our higher nature
comes forward,
a bad sign
when our lower nature
comes forward.

With the slaughter
of multitudes,
we have grief and sorrow.
Every victory is a funeral;
if you win a war,
you celebrate by mourning.

Sensitivity and vulnerability, empathy and compassion: this is evidence of a higher nature.

Gluttony, sloth, greed, envy, anger, lust, Pride: these are symptomatic of a lower nature.

When lower nature trumps and triumphs over higher nature, the slaughter of multitudes is inevitable. If war is justified, every victory in battle is still a funeral and every war won still a cause to mourn the loss of those who perished.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

I’d like to begin this section with a quote that speaks to what I call the Wound of Humanity:

The wound in the human psyche that produces fear, anger, greed, mistrust, and violence is the most difficult to heal. Yet that wound is the one responsible for the many thousands of ways we all suffer. Our failure to free ourselves from the sickness that infects the whole human race is evident everywhere in our world. We destroy our environment with our greed and carelessness. We spend more energy producing weapons of mass destruction than we do helping each other to improve the quality of life. We fear intimate contact with each other. Mistrust is our first reaction to the approach of our own kind. We kill our children in terrible wars. We oppress and brutalize those among us who are in any way different from ourselves. We quickly become addicted to anything that allows us brief consolation from the terrible pain of our condition.

~ Robert K. Hall, M.D. (emphasis in the original; from the forward to the first edition of Emotional Processing: Releasing Negative Feelings and Awakening Unconditional Happiness, by John Ruskin)

It would be easy to say that the privileged among us should just come out of their tiny self-made, self-protective cocoons woven by the conveniences of money, power, status, and security and arrange to share everything equitably with everyone.

Problem solved.

No one anywhere would want for anything; no one would ever again starve or freeze to death, as nutritious food would be plentiful and the dignity of a safe, secure, peaceful, private shelter would be assured.

Wars would become pointless and crime would fade to black. The environment would be fully restored. Addictions would disappear, poverty would become a thing of the past, and the homeless would get their voices back.

The agents of law enforcement would/could actually care about the people they say they serve and protect.

Genuine needs could be satisfied with ease, authentic desires fulfilled with genuine pleasure.

If only.

Regardless of whether it’s used offensively or defensively, mindfully or mindlessly, cavalierly or gratuitously, a weapon of violence is still a terrible and terrifying symptom.

It’s a symptom of a systemic cause identified and elaborated but not yet appreciated well enough by enough people to create a tipping point towards the momentum required to manifest desired outcomes for everyone.

It’s a symptom of an occult elite power base in denial of the power of the human heart to transform this sad and sorry excuse for a world into a paradise of peace and prosperity for everyone.

When I walk at my leisure in peace and freedom, I cannot help but marvel at this incredibly beautiful, wonderful world – sans humanity.

The current strategy for the enlightened among us is to bring unity and harmony into the heart of humanity – one person at a time – but this process is slow, and much slower than I would like.

If Lao Tzu were alive today, I’m almost sure he would concur that humanity can heal itself of its Wound and lay down its weapons of violence, clearing the way for the fulfillment of peace and prosperity the likes of which we have never seen on this planet.

Perhaps, one day, I shall walk the earth and marvel at this world without reservation, with humanity in my heart, through the lens of objective reality, as well as, and as fully as, the private lens of subjective reality.

Next up: Perfect Goodness? (Living the Perfect Goodness of the Tao)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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