Tao Te Ching Day 11: The River

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“Crippled becomes whole…”

TTC – Chp. 22 Addiss & Lombardo

What does this refer to, some sort of miracle healing practice? Those with out legs, will walk again? Maybe, or maybe it means that, like a person who looses one sense, other senses become stronger.

Another translation of this is, “yield and reman whole…” TTC- Chp. 22 (Derek Lin)

I see this as the 1st law of thermodynamics. Energy is neither created or destroyed, it can only be transformed.

Let’s take a river, imagine a massive river flowing down to the ocean, until suddenly a massive mountain blocks it’s path. Oh no.! What will “River” do?

The river, like the Sage’s mentioned in the Tao Te Ching, yields.

We wonder then, how ever will the river make it to the ocean? Let us refer back to the 1st law of Thermodynamics, “Energy is neither created or destroyed, it can only be transformed.”

So, the river sits and waits. Suddenly, it begins to turn to vapor from the heat in the air and as we all know, heat rises. The vapor makes its way to the clouds, which just so happen to be atop this majestic mountain.

Well, damn it – if it ain’t cold as all get out on that dang mountain, and so it snows. The water vapor crystalizes to form ice and snow, laying heavy on the mountain. Well, some time passes, weeks even, until the sun begins to melt that ice and as the snow turns to water again it goes flying down that mountain to be reunited with it’s “River” self on the other side.

The amazing thing is that the water only had to wait and be transformed. What effort or energy was lost by the water.

Like the river, by yielding and being transformed we become whole.

“Crooked becomes whole, Hollow becomes full,

Worn becomes new, Little becomes more,

Much becomes delusion.”

TTC- Chp. 22 (Addiss & Lombardo)

The river or water for that matter is such an apt metaphor for this chapter and also for the way of the Sage (Master).

A river bends, yet there is no question its target. The empty space is filled up. Go look at that ditch in your back yard after it rains.

We are constantly being replenished, like the water replaces it self. We must be worn out to be replenished.

The text also gives light to what true humility is. There is no mistaking this in my mind.

The low places become filled. Being humble is remaining in a place to receive as the ocean does. The ocean is the place where all water goes, because it is the lowest place. But, how grand is the ocean? I mean look at all the metaphor’s about it for God’s sake.

When I have many choices in life, as we all seem to have now.

I mean, I just want to buy a bottle of water, but there are hundreds of different types of bottled water all claiming to be the best. If I spend to much time deciding, I could end up dead from dehydration.

The delusion is that the water is really any different. Any bottle of water will do when you are thirsty.

It is as the river flows, there are many paths to the sea if it splits it self a million different ways it will still go where it was always going. Do not be deluded by all the different options and get stuck. Keep moving, we are all going to the same place.

“Therefore Sages cling to the One, and take care of this world;

Do not display themselves, and therefore shine;

Do not assert themselves, and therefore stand out;

Do not praise themselves, and therefore succeed;

Are not complacent, and therefore endure;

Do not control, and therefore no one under heaven can contend with them.

TTC – Chp. 22 ( Addiss & Lombardo)

The Sage’s live as if they were living water. They move and act in ways that naturally reflect the way a river moves.

They are not trying to show off but they are shining stars. They are not complacent always transforming for the moment they are in.

They seek no praise and all people can not help but praise them.

It is such an interesting paradox to the way we, at least in America, have been raised. We are like a multitude of Ricky Bobby’s from Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, your last.”

However, the Tao Te Ching shows in so many ways that one must be last to be first.

I feel this as great medicine for the disease of more that holds our world ever tighter.

We want more things, more love, more attention, and in so many ways we have gotten all that we want and more. The more that it continues to happen, the more people begin to realize the hollowness of more.

The Sage’s knew this. They understood the true nature of things, and that to have anything worth having we must be willing to let go of it all.

As the river does not give only the amount it wishes to those in need. It gives freely and is constantly replenished over and over again.

Can we give freely of ourselves? Can we be transformed by yielding and not losing our way? Can we bend and remain straight?

The practice if held onto as we currently are, is impossible, but if we are like Bruce Lee said, “Be like water, my friend…” Life can be easy and free.

I am seeing more and more that the Tao Te Ching is a text to free the people and to help anyone live an incredible life.

The River is showing us the way.

“The old saying, crippled becomes whole, is not empty words.

It becomes whole and returns.”

TTC – Chp. 22 (Addiss & Lombardo)

Published by Matthew Whiteside

I am a writer, a storyteller, a yarn-spinning freakazoid. My life is full of two things today, lessons and blessings. I write fiction mostly but I also love to write about my life and the things I go through on a daily basis. Writing it out inspires and motivates me and that's why I do it. Plus if it does that for me maybe it will for someone else too.

2 thoughts on “Tao Te Ching Day 11: The River

  1. Good post. Note that the part about the Sages bears more than a passing resemblance to Mathew 6:5 – “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”

    It’s similarities like that which got me looking at other schools of spiritual though for commonalities and different wordings that may help me understand the same ideas better.

    By the way, given your water analogies, you’d really like Shannon Lee’s “Be Water My Friend”. It’s half Taoism and half self help based on Bruce’s martial arts training and the Taoist philosophy he learned from his teacher Ip Man. Water and it’s properties are used as an examples of how to deal with much of life’s difficulties. I’m reading it now, and liking it alot more than I thought I would.

    Liked by 1 person

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