What Truly Matters?

by Christopher Lovejoy on December 8, 2013

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard it said: “in the ultimate scheme of things, nothing really matters.”

Or its converse: “if you’re paying attention with or from a witness perspective, every little thing matters.”

Perhaps “every little thing” is relevant to a life and has significance for a life to the extent to which it gets incorporated into that life.

Intimately related to the question, “what matters?”, is the question, “what is meaningful?”

The existential perspective of the individual as creator offers this: “life is meaningless.” Life is meaning-less: “life in and of itself is without meaning, except the meaning you give it.”

If ever you had the sense that life is meaning-less, perhaps it’s because you neglected to supply a meaning.

If so, what meaning is best supplied?

Tao Te Ching, Verse 67

As this verse makes clear, the Tao is not a commodity to be bought and sold, not a sentimental treasure to be passed on through the generations, not a store of knowledge and wisdom to be recalled and cherished.

Rather than identify the Tao with colorful description, this verse makes it known indirectly, making it accessible by way of virtue, by what the Tao can ultimately do for us when we tap its three treasures.

All the world talks
about my Tao
with such familiarity –
what folly!
The Tao is not
something found
in the marketplace
or passed on
from father to son.
It is not something
gained by knowing
or lost by forgetting.
If the Tao were like this,
it would have been lost
and forgotten long ago.

I have three treasures,
which I hold fast
and watch closely:
The first is mercy;
the second is frugality;
the third is humility.

From mercy
comes courage.
From frugality
comes generosity.
From humility
comes leadership.
If one were bold
but had no mercy,
if one were broad
but not frugal,
if one went ahead
without humility,
one would die.

Love vanquishes
all attackers;
it is impregnable
in defense.
When heaven wishes
to protect someone,
does it send an army?
No, it protects with love.

Edited slightly by yours truly to enhance the flow of text

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

If you’ve ever been protected or saved by sights unseen or by sounds unheard, you’ll know in your heart that the question that completes this verse does not require mere belief in the answer.

My Impressions of the Verse

If we already know that the power of love divine rules the laws of nature, then we also know that we have nothing to worry about; we have nothing to fear and we have nothing to doubt. We need only tap the blessings of divine love through stillness to heed the promptings of intuitive insight and guidance.

All the world talks
about my Tao
with such familiarity –
what folly!
The Tao is not
something found
in the marketplace
or passed on
from father to son.
It is not something
gained by knowing
or lost by forgetting.
If the Tao were like this,
it would have been lost
and forgotten long ago.

Again, this portion of the verse makes it clear that the Tao is not a mere construct of the mind or heart.

I have three treasures,
which I hold fast
and watch closely:
The first is mercy;
the second is frugality;
the third is humility.

If you have a good heart – if what you say or do in response to lack or loss, real or perceived, is kind, loving, charitable, or compassionate – then you are a friend to mercy. If, however, your heart has grown cold and dark by a narrow, ruthless focus on goals, on being number one, then you will likely be hard pressed to give mercy its due, putting yourself at risk of being and feeling separated, even isolated.

From mercy
comes courage.
From frugality
comes generosity.
From humility
comes leadership.
If one were bold
but had no mercy,
if one were broad
but not frugal,
if one went ahead
without humility,
one would die.

The prevailing model of achievement in this world at this time, as measured by acquisition, accumulation, and accomplishment, has the unfortunate effect of constricting the channels of sincere giving.

Frugality, also known as thrift, simplicity, economy, or moderation (“everything in moderation”), makes room for cultivating an attitude of generosity. Satisfy what you genuinely need, fulfill some of what you truly desire, but leave room for giving and receiving in the spirit of generosity.

This way, you are less likely to die a spiritual death.

Love vanquishes
all attackers;
it is impregnable
in defense.
When heaven wishes
to protect someone,
does it send an army?
No, it protects with love.

Humility (not presuming to be above nature, not daring to be ahead of others, not always trying to be number one) is most basic to being, feeling, and staying alive, and relies on love divine to be sustained.

Too much of what passes for leadership is flush with the controlling, demanding, overbearing, domineering energies of pride and arrogance bereft of mercy, generosity, and gratitude.

Love divine is code for mercy, frugality, and humility combined. The vital energies coming through from The Other Side are far more likely to come to your aid as and when you live by this code of love.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

If we are merciful, if we embrace frugality in our daily lives, taking only what we need as and when we need it, and if we remain genuinely humble in leadership, do we not risk losing recognition to those who are bolder, smarter, more extravagant?

Are merciful, frugal, humble leaders not perceived as weak? Are they not perceived as ineffective? In what ways and by what means have they proven themselves worthy of being followed, of being assessed as competent to lead and serve?

I, for one, would love to know that this type of leader rules this world, and perhaps on some hidden level it does, but the story of humanity in 3D on this planet has told a very different story.

The world in which we live and work today, in the early 21st century, circa 2012, is one in which the dictates of global leadership are issued from the shadows and backed by deadly force, making institutional leadership in this world at this time a top-down affair – as above, so below.

As such, it favors a bold, smart, driven leadership style with little or no room for mercy or humility.

Speaking reluctantly, our only recourse might be to shun most institutions altogether and do a workaround, banding together with like-minded persons who favor a leadership style characterized by charity, simplicity, and humility.

It’s in this light that I would like to ask: what truly matters? What, if anything, is fulfilling about being humble and simple?

Mercy, frugality, humility – compassion, simplicity, charity – is this set of timeless virtues what truly matters?

As far as I can see, my fulfillment as a person is about satisfying those needs that allow me to fulfill my desires.

As the basic virtues of mercy, frugality, and humility are so intimately related to the satisfaction of human need, a clear distinction between satisfying needs and fulfilling desires is required.

Forget about desires for a moment; truth be told, satisfying needs, in and of itself, is a full-time job. I need to be mindful of which of my needs have been satisfied, which of my needs require my vigilance, and which of my needs have yet to be satisfied.

Interestingly, this statement of need dovetails nicely with the three treasures when I flip my perspective.

As a leader, with due respect paid to followers, being merciful is aligned with being mindful of which of their needs have been satisfied; exercising frugality is aligned with knowing which of their needs require vigilance; and remaining humble is aligned with assessing which of their needs have yet to be satisfied.

It’s important to recognize that I can take a leading role in my relationships as and when I exercise these virtues; leadership need not only involve being a shepherd, a steward, or a servant leader.

In working with these ideas, I’ve come to realize that there is nothing fulfilling about being humble and simple; being humble and simple is my slate of contrast for recognizing and appreciating fulfillment.

Without diligently and consistently exercising mercy, frugality, and humility at the right time in the right place for the right reason, I don’t think I could ever be truly and genuinely fulfilled as a person.

A reminder to myself: be merciful (appropriately, compassionately) to be courageous; be frugal (artfully, skillfully) to be generous; and be humble (genuinely, effectively) to be a leader others wish to follow.

Next up: This Ultimate Unity (Living by Cooperating)

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

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