Chapter of the Week: #48 [Archive]

'Modesty is only for those who have much to be modest about'
-Clifton webb 'Sitting Pretty

What are your thoughts on modesty-where does it fit into the taoist mindset? Is it ego to be modest, as if you have something noone else does? Is it worse to hide what you know or speak up and the fates be damned?
I'm fairly smart, and not afraid to blow my own horn. For years, I 'played dumb' to fit in with the crowd I chose to be with. I didnt read, or think much. This was killing me more than the booze and drugs. I wouldn't correct anyone even when i knew they were wrong, I'd seldom add anything deeper to a conversation than a belch...i wasnt being true to myself.
Now, I'm not suggesting i'm a genius-what i dont know fills several libraries, but at least i'm trying...and I'm not overbearing. I mainly try to guide people into thinking for themselves outside the mainstream...
When modesty is mentioned, most think of physical modesty-I'm naturally shy, withdrawn and quiet-yet i'm also a nudist and spent 5 years acting on do i reconcile these 2 halves of my personality? Well, I'm not an exhibitionist (I won't even wear shorts in public), and I don't take out billboards with my picture on them... I might start a website proclaiming my greatness, but that's be tongue in cheek, (and besides it's already been done...)
Can these parts coexist? I guess so, since they do in me...
So again, I ask, should modesty exist or is it just more phoniness?


  • edited July 2006
    Each week we address one chapter of the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 48 was originally featured on the 2nd week in December.

    Note: The Tao Te Ching can be obscure, especially if you think you're supposed to understand what it's saying! We find it easier and more instructive to simply contemplate how the chapter resonates with your personal experience. Becoming more aware at this fundamental level simplifies life. This approach conforms to the view that true knowing lies within ourselves. Thus, when a passage in the scripture resonates, you've found your inner truth. The same applies for when it evokes a question; questions are the grist for self realization.

    Chapter 48
    In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day;
    In the pursuit of the way one does less every day.
    One does less and less until one does nothing at all,
    And when one does nothing at all there is nothing that is undone.

    It is always through not meddling that the empire is won.
    Should you meddle, then you are not equal to the task of winning the empire.
  • edited December 1969
    Undone is the key for me. The worldly sense of undone can describe the present moment as somehow incomplete and less than perfect, but that through future action, can be fixed. When I return to the stillness of my moment, I feel there is nothing that is undone. My sense of undone-ness originates in my desire for (or fear of) something and my expectation of winning. It's a self made illusion, yet my senses are certain it is external and real. If I believe this illusion is reality, I'll never reach that [chref=33]contentment [/chref] where I [chref=37]never act, yet nothing is left undone.[/chref] Knowing this cold primal truth make me very [chref=15]tentative[/chref] in my approach to life.

    It is always through not meddling that the empire is won is the key to wise parenting. Turning that principle into daily reality is the challenge. The push to meddle arises out of an emotional agenda to make what I [chref=57]desire[/chref], (i.e., need, want, crave) happen. When I sincerely want to win the empire (parenting here), I'm more aware of my emotional 'moment'. This mindfulness helps me pause and [chref=16]hold firmly to stillness.[/chref] It truly is simply a matter of what I really want out of life: as I discovered years ago, 'short term pain, long term pleasure... or ...short term pleasure, long term pain'. It's either pay up front and be [chref=46]content[/chref], or pay later and court [chref=46]disaster[/chref]. Noticing that nature 'pays up front', how can I not [chref=21]follow[/chref] this way.
  • edited December 1969
    There is nothing that's undone becuase theres nothing that needs to be fixed...we meddle, we tinker, we try to 'fix' only those things we have created or messed with in the first place; do nothing, let the way be, and all is perfect...hard to do for we modern folks, who believe all change is good progress is good...

    as for parenting, I agree-often I run into this with my kid: He says,(usually about homework) "I'm not doing this and you cant make me"-he's testing me, and more and more I just say 'No, I cant make you, but I know you'll do it because you know you should", and invariably he does-oh, how many years I wasted beating my head against walls trying to 'win' situations like this, creating an emotional good aspect of having kids later in life, less need for ego to rule all siutations...
  • edited December 1969
    Well, honestly, I was reading this and looked out the window and the llamas and goats were lined up waiting for their dinner. Dinner was undone, so I went and fed them and now it's done. So how does that relate to the present moment being less than perfect? If I 'never acted' the poor creatures would starve. This stuff is so obscure; I don't get it. Now I will mindfully release the goats back into the pasture, let undoneness resonate with me, and see if that helps the situation any.
  • edited December 1969
    Yeah, that helped. In each moment, nothing is undone. I put out my big-booted right foot, then put it down on the earth, then did the left foot, repeated until I got to the gate then I lifted the chain and opened the gate.....just a bunch of dots in the line.
  • JoeJoe
    edited December 1969
    Meddling in the empire, for me, is about pursuing desires/ideas about how I want reality to be. Unfortunately, it?s so easy to do that, instead of paying attention to what?s actually happening. And I think of the ?winning? the empire as totally embracing reality. There are so many times when I?ll go through a situation, struggling with my desires about how I want things to go my way, when instead I miss what?s really going on. The empire, the reality of the way, takes care of itself, thank you very much.

    Often times when I?m meddling with things, it?s because I think I ?know? how things should be. But actually, when I?m accepting reality, nothing is left undone because I?m not following my desires only. When I think I have the answers, I end up putting out so much more energy, struggling to fulfill my desires, instead of simply doing what needs to be done. (This is why there?s so much more contentment in gently asking questions, accepting the ?murkiness?, the mystery of the universe.)

    In Buddhism, there?s the idea that if we?re able to let go of pursuing our desires, the sense of ?I?, of ?self?, drops away. As I practice more mindfulness, more truly paying attention to the moment, I?ve experienced that loss of self, if very briefly. But when this happens, things actually do get done, without ?me? directing them or forcing them to fit my plan. I can see how the more one is able to be totally present, in the pursuit of the way, then ?One ? the ?I? ? does less every day,? until one does nothing at all.

    I think this fits in with why I haven?t believed in free will for a long time. I see reality as happening through the way, the universe, not through any individual desire or motivation. (If I had free will, I would think I?d be able to stop feeling an unpleasant emotion, simply by willing it. I?ve never seen anyone able to do that.) It?s ironic how much struggle I put into thinking about how ?I? want things to be, when the contentment is to be found by accepting that I have no control over how things will happen.
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