In Support of Equity

by Christopher Lovejoy on February 16, 2014

A theme in the legend of Robin Hood is equity, not with respect for, but in relation to, the law, but if ideal applications of law are impartial, then ideal applications of equity are fair with respect for the law.

If a mother steals a loaf of bread because her children are hungry, this is unlawful from an impartial point of view, and if a man of means gives her the money to buy a loaf of bread, this is charitable, regardless of the law, but if a collection agency recognized by society as being worthy of granting basic guaranteed incomes offers one to a mother in need, this is equitable, in keeping with the law.

By definition, to be fair and impartial is to be equitable. In the absence of an educated, influential middle class, Robin Hood and his band of merry men resorted to taking (stealing?) from the rich and giving to the poor. In their minds, they were being equitable and lawful.

To be fair is to be fair, but to be equitable is to be fair and impartial with (ideally) respect for the law.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 77

This verse draws on nature as inspiration for being equitable with our own kind; it brings humanity to account for actions and inactions against its own kind, and offers an equitable remedy.

The way of heaven
is like drawing a bow:
the high is lowered
and the low is raised.
When there is more
than enough, it reduces,
and when there is less
than enough, it increases.

The way of humankind
is the exact opposite:
it reduces the deficiency
and adds to the surplus;
it strips and denies the needy
to serve and cater to those
who simply have too much.

Only those who keep the Tao
offer their surplus to others.
Who has more than enough
and gives it to the world?
Only those in keeping with
the way of heaven, the Tao.

Masters of the Tao
keep giving as there is
no end to their wealth.
They act without expectation,
succeed without taking credit,
and do not think for a moment
they are better than anyone else.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

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

In any discussion about wealth, we are well advised to remember that wealth is more than just money and things; it also includes currencies of exchange such as time and energy (good will, for example).

My Impressions of the Verse

I took the liberty of tweaking this verse until it felt totally right to me, while doing my best to keep its original meaning.

I like how this verse starts with an appeal to nature, follows this with an exposé of how humanity conducts itself by way of contrast, and then concludes with a remedy of corrective action.

The way of heaven
is like drawing a bow:
the high is lowered
and the low is raised.
When there is more
than enough, it reduces,
and when there is less
than enough, it increases.

The way of heaven and earth, from above and from below, is like drawing a bow, always straining to meet half way, always seeking to restore the balance in the face of too much or too little.

The way of humankind
is the exact opposite:
it reduces the deficiency
and adds to the surplus;
it strips and denies the needy
to serve and cater to those
who simply have too much.

By this account, humankind has lost its way, its connection with the Way, consumed by a sense of entitlement, by its own thirst for greed and speed, selfishly oblivious to need.

Can we say “a race of spoiled children?”

Only those who keep the Tao
offer their surplus to others.
Who has more than enough
and gives it to the world?
Only those in keeping with
the way of heaven, the Tao.

Intuitively or instinctively, most of us know when we have more than enough, as we’re still learning when enough is enough, when we follow the example of nature between heaven and earth.

Masters of the Tao keep giving
as there is
no end to their wealth.
They act without expectation,
succeed without taking credit,
and do not think for a moment
they are better than anyone else.

Sages keep giving and giving because they keep receiving, and keep receiving and receiving because they keep giving, in keeping with the spirit of “what goes around comes around”.

Masters of the Tao keep giving and receiving modest tangibles fit for living in a body as well as the countless intangible blessings that serve to feed and nourish the mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

When I feel fulfilled, I feel that I’ve had enough, but when is enough enough? The fact that this world is full of people who have more than enough makes me wonder about the sanity of humanity.

Granted, there is no human law that states, “thou shall not have more than enough, for if you do, thou shall be punished with an edict that forces you to give away your surplus to those in need.”

The indisputable fact that anyone on the planet is in need at all is a clear indication that the wound of separation inside the body of humanity has yet to heal.

If you’ve ever gone to a food bank, or know someone who has, you’ll know that most of the food is either past its expiry date or is soon to be expired. Could this be leftovers for the human animal?

This borders on the pathetic. Humanity is clearly in deep denial. Could the wound of separation be hurting too much? Or is the character of humanity such that it has lost its soul to greed and speed?

Perhaps both.

Let us revisit the remedy offered by verse 77:

Masters of the Tao keep giving as there is no end to their wealth. They act without expectation, succeed without taking credit, and do not think for a moment they are better than anyone else.

People who live in accord with the Tao keep giving and receiving with a view towards making and keeping humanity whole as there is no seeming end to their material and/or spiritual wealth.

People of the Tao act without expectation of loss or gain and succeed without claiming credit. If you’ve read this far, you know in your heart that personal fulfillment is not just about “me, myself, and I.”

Genuine personal fulfillment takes account of what is personally required and desired with respect for the conduct of nature that manifests with ease somewhere between heaven and earth.

Next up: To Live Like Water (Living Like Water)

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

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