Tao Te Ching Day 42: Subtle Clarity

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“If one wishes to shrink it,

One must first expand it.

If one wishes to weaken it,

One must first strengthen it.

TTC 36 (Lin)

When I was a kid I loved milk and milk based products. I would consume a gallon of milk in about two days. I was a gluten. I remember a distinct moment in my childhood when milk and milk products lost their taste for me.

I was maybe 12 and was at home by myself after school, (my brother and sisters were probably there but involved in there own stuff). In the freezer was a box of 36 ice cream sandwich’s. That’s right 36, my mom had bought them for all 5 of her kids and probably for her self as well.

Well, it didn’t take long after I found those bad boys and the realization that no one was watching me that I began a quest to eat every last one. I didn’t start with the thought that I would eat them all but after that first bite I knew I was in trouble.

It wasn’t until I reached for the 20th or so ice cream sandwich that my body began to have a reaction. I was there alone in my misery stuffed to the brim with cream and sugar and I felt like I was about to die.

The amount of sugar and lactose I ingested could have killed any regular human, but I was an addict even from childhood.

I made it until there where only 2 sandwiches left before I went and passed out on the couch into a food coma assisted by the worst stomach ache I had ever had. I wish I would have thrown up, but I didn’t.

Instead what I did was create an allergic reaction for the rest of my life that anytime I eat anything with lactose I get a pretty nasty stomach issue.

What I did was similar to what I have seen parents on old tv shows do to their kids when they find them smoking. “You wanna smoke a cigarette, here smoke a carton.” Until eventually the kid pukes and swears off the stuff for life.

This is what Lao Tzu is referring to. Everything has its natural limit. If you want something to shrink allow it to grow past its natural limits and let it correct itself, because it will. Nature, uh… uh… finds a way.

“If one wishes to discard it,

One must first promote it.

If one wishes to seize it,

One must first give it.

This is called subtle clarity.”

TTC 36 (Lin)

“Subtle clarity,” is also translated as “subtle virtue,” or “subtle Te.” The clarity here is that everything has its natural harmonious state of resting, of being its self. Many times in life we see something out of whack, like a person with a bad habit, or a massive ego and we want to humble them with our own abilities.

The Tao makes it clear and actually very simple, when faced with a person or situation that is headed in a direction that we think is not good we allow them to go there, in fact we give them assistance to get there quicker, if they want, so that they can reach the point of no return, which in Taoism is return, as all things return to the Tao.

I remember all the people that tried to keep me from drinking myself to death when I was younger, they threw themselves and their lives in front of my addiction. This was a noble thing to do in many ways, and in many ways it simply delayed the inevitable.

I was going in the direction of blowing up my life with drugs and alcohol and no one was to stop me. Once I was finally left to my own devices and allowed to drink like I wanted it wasn’t long before my only options were to get help and stop drinking or die.

Of course that is always a choice any addict has, but in my experience it isn’t until we find the bottom of despair for ourselves that we can truly turn it around. Sometimes that means allowing the ones you love to hurt themselves and even die. As unfortunate as that outcome is, I have found that it is not until we meet death face to face that we can truly live.

I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, and yet I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s because I have discovered something greater than death, greater than fear, I have found eternal life and it exists right here, right now in this moment.

Allow things to go their own way, all things are moving towards the Tao, what is it you wish to keep them from?

“The soft and weak overcome the tough and strong.

Fish cannot leave the depths

The sharp instruments of the state

Cannot be shown to the people.”

TTC 36 (Lin)

Happy “Mothers” Day

(Love you mom, thanks for letting me go my own way. You are a True Sage)


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.

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