A Balance of Power

by Christopher Lovejoy on October 27, 2013

A true gardener of the soul is both a giver and a lover, giving time and energy to planting seeds of love, planting seeds with love, remaining attentive to the appearance of sprouts, and tending to these sprouts with tender loving care, following their progress to the appearance of blossoms that grow and ripen into fruit or to the appearance of buds that open and bloom as flowers.

Initially, intentions are seeds that feed on attention, hopefully sprouting at times and in places when and where conditions are ideally suited for remaining consistent and committed to the Way. Such consistency and commitment obviously require safe, secure, stable environments. In such environments, unifying intentions can be fed harmonious attentions. Such is the essence of consciously awakened power.

But what if one gardener is better at gardening than another? What if one group of gardeners surpasses another group of gardeners in their ability to deliver beauty and bounty?

Tao Te Ching, Verse 61

With a growing ability of individuals to connect and relate and cooperate, are nation states even necessary? Have they become obsolete? If not, could it be that they’re on their way to being so?

Or, could it be that as the ubiquitous notion of One World, One People gains global currency, countries the world over are beginning to serve as vital containers of unity for the sake of diversity?

In either scenario, wherein lies the balance of power?

A great country
is like the lowland,
toward which
all streams flow.
It is the reservoir
of all under heaven,
the feminine of the world.
The female overcomes
the male with stillness,
by lowering herself
through her quietness.

So if a great country
lowers itself
before a small one,
it wins friendship and trust,
and if a small country
can lower itself
before a great one,
it will win over
this great country.
The one wins by stooping;
the other, by remaining low.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

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

The conclusion to this verse offends the cynical ego even as it gives the skeptical ego pause.

A great nation cannot stoop before a small nation and a small nation cannot remain low out of respect for a great nation without their respective peoples knowing, appreciating, and realizing the intended meaning and purpose of stooping or remaining low.

As an individual gardener of intentions, wherein lies the wisdom of stooping or remaining low?

My Impressions of the Verse

Suppose people of high status were in the habit of stooping to lift up those of lower status and suppose too that people of low status were in the habit of remaining low out of deference to those of higher status.

One might think that if every nation of the world had these habits of character ingrained in the soul of its people, the blights of war, strife, and poverty would not only be unthinkable but next to impossible.

I imagine, however, that if a country were prosperous enough, where everyone could fulfill all of their basic desires with reasonable ease, acts of stooping and remaining low would not even be necessary.

In the meantime, in a bid to build a global paradise of peace and prosperity on earth, the countries of this world, great and small, might do well to take heed of these ancient words of wisdom …

A great country
is like the lowland,
toward which
all streams flow.
It is the reservoir
of all under heaven,
the feminine of the world.
The female overcomes
the male with stillness,
by lowering herself
through her quietness.

In a world of peace and prosperity, these words would speak for themselves.

So if a great country
lowers itself
before a small one,
it wins friendship and trust,
and if a small country
can lower itself
before a great one,
it will win over
this great country.
The one wins by stooping;
the other, by remaining low.

Sovereign countries themselves cannot stoop or remain low – only those who represent such countries can do so and only if such conduct is supported and endorsed by their respective populations.

As a metaphor, this portion of the verse speaks eloquently to the positioning required for the emergence and sustenance of peaceful relations between sovereign nations of unequal size and stature.

At the heights of power, true strength is found in remaining discreet, from a space of humility, in a vast inner ocean of stillness. All those who would presume to tower above you in a spirit of conquest would ultimately find their restless, restive energies flowing down to you.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

Personal strength has been traditionally viewed as displays of arrogance and flamboyancy, of dominance and control, of imposition and conquest, but at the peaceful, loving, joyous, blissful, graceful core of personal vulnerability lies a different kind of personal strength.

To wit, tenderness is strength.

Masculine energy does have its time and place, when and where appropriately applied, but as verse 61 makes clear, feminine energy, when aligned with the Tao, serves a far greater power in its vast capacity to tame and absorb the willfulness of masculine power.

Where wilfulness presumes to overcome willingness, willingness serves to undermine wilfulness.

This universal dance of the masculine and feminine plays back and forth in perpetuity; both have their time and place, and it is up to each of us to decide when and where either is best applied or sustained.

In essence, the cultivation or realization of personal fulfillment can only ever be sought or found through making it so or letting it be, in doing or being, in a process of execution or in a state of completion.

The more we apply ourselves to making it so, the more room we need to make for letting it be, and the more we settle ourselves into letting it be, the more inclined we’ll be to make it so. We decide when and where to make it so or let it be and only we can know how far we can go with making it so or letting it be.

Only we can know just how far we can go with stooping or remaining low.

Next up: The Principal Principle (Living in the Treasure-House of the Tao)

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

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