I have read a lot of things in my youth that I no longer recall, so I am often surprised when I revisit something I read in my twenties and realize it said many things I either missed when I first read it, or have forgotten in the intervening years. Of course, it may also be that, in the inexperience of youth, I simply overlooked many significant statements, or that one of the many peculiar philosophies to which I subscribed in youthful ignorance prevented me from seeing something that is now obvious.
All of which is a long winded way to introduce what strikes me as a very interesting quote from the Tao Te Ching. As I suggested in the introduction, I read this work a long time ago, during my brief dalliance with the late 80's hippie revival (which immediately preceded my even more idiotic -- but mercifully short lived -- fascination with Bakunin and communo-anarchism), but I seem to recall gaining nothing more than a very shallow understanding of it. Then again, in your twenties a rather shallow understanding is actually rather impressive, as that is the age in which you tend to not try to understand anything, but instead impose your own beliefs upon the rest of the world. So the fact that I gained any understanding at all is laudable.
But that is all nothing more than a very lengthy aside, what truly fascinates me is a single, brief quote I just discovered, which, though I am sure is interpreted in many, many ways be believers, strikes me as a profound statement, and one which matches well with many of my political beliefs:
Therefore the Master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow.
Evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is people's greatest help.
True words seem paradoxical.
The lines which fascinate me in particular, obviously, are the fourth and fifth, the statement that by giving up helping, he is his people's greatest help. I am not sure what more spiritual meanings this is given (though I can hazard a few guesses), but taken quite literally, it sounds like the thesis I have advanced in "When Help Hurts
", "Subsidizing Irresponsibility and Poor Planning
" and elsewhere, that often it is more helpful to offer no help.
There really is no deeper meaning here, no more to be said. I do not claim this statement offers any proof, or should be seen as any sort of argument in favor of my beliefs. I simply found it fascinating that a well known work would contain such words. However, other than providing me with yet another possible motto for my writing, and giving me a moment of amusement, I can't say it has any deeper significance.