Of late, I find myself spending more and more time with the Tao Te Ching. One principle in particular: the idea of the unlimited potential in everything and everyone seems to be speaking to me in a louder voice than before. And it’s not like I haven’t been taught that lesson before. We all have. But a certain verse in the Tao resonates with a more precise focus now.
To explain; “tao” is translated as “the way” as in the way of life. It’s believed to be an inherent understanding of how humans should live. We are born with certain knowledge of light and dark, good and evil or right and wrong. For example, no one had to teach us that stealing is wrong. We knew that already. But think about it. How did people come up with that concept if it wasn’t already present in us from birth? And this is a shared concept that goes beyond international borders or cultural norms. We just know.
With that in mind, the verse that’s stuck in my head comes from chapter one:
Tao existed before words and names,
Before the ten thousand things.
It is the unlimited father and mother
Of all limited things.*
Those words keep coming up because I can apply it on a personal level. As I try to figure out how to live life at this stage, I’ve been looking back on how good things used to be. I had an incredible broadcast career from the time I left high school. When that stopped, I built a lucrative photography career. But I used to think that the good had to be balanced with the bad which gave me two failed marriages to vindictive spouses and a miserable home life if my children weren’t around.
Those thoughts limited me because I thought it was about balance. But now I have come to realize that the Tao wasn’t teaching me about taking the good with the bad. Balance is important and I don’t want to leave the impression that it is not. But I believe that the verse that’s playing in my head on repeat is showing me something else. Perhaps it’s really showing me that I’ve been limiting myself. I guess I bought into the worldly notion that says if someone wins that means someone else has to lose.
Of course, within certain limited parameters, like a baseball game, that’s true. In life, the way is unlimited. Only our thinking places the stops on us that hold us back. Imagine how far could we go if we lifted the veil that keeps us down.
*Translated by Brian Browne Walker