The Solid is the root of the light; the Quiescent is the master of the hasty. Therefore the Sage travels all day yet never leaves his provision-cart. In the midst of honor and glory, he lives leisurely, undisturbed. How can the ruler of a great country make light of his body in the empire (by rushing about)? In light frivolity, the Center is lost; in hasty action, self-mastery is lost.
(Tao Teh King 26)
Human beings habitually live backwards like Merlin. That is, they confuse cause with effect, and continually mistake the order in which things arise. They also confuse things with one another. For thoroughly negative people, peace is war and war is peace, virtue is vice and vice is virtue. So Lao Tzu is going to dispel some of our misperceptions.
The universe is composed of two basic processes: involution and evolution. They are mirror images of one another, exact opposites. For example, the involution process involves moving from formlessness into form, but evolution involves moving from form into formlessness. In this section of the Tao Teh King Lao Tzu is speaking of evolution.
The Solid is the root of the light.
Legge: “Gravity is the root of lightness.” We must first be perfectly “grounded,” defined and stabilized, before we can consciously, intelligently and purposefully begin to refine, expand, and ultimately resolve back into all-pervasive formlessness, into pure consciousness.
The Quiescent is the master of the hasty.
Legge: “Stillness, the ruler of movement.” We cannot act meaningfully until we can be perfectly still within action, identifying with the core of silent, unmoving consciousness that is at the heart of everything.
Therefore the Sage travels all day yet never leaves his provision-cart.
Legge: “Therefore a wise prince, marching the whole day, does not go far from his baggage wagons.” We must never leave the center of our existence, spirit-consciousness, however far we “travel” in our lifespan. For that is the essence of our life, our very existence. To forget our selves in wandering through earthly life is to invite frustration, misery, decay, and death.
In the midst of honor and glory, he lives leisurely, undisturbed.
Legge: “Although he may have brilliant prospects to look at, he quietly remains (in his proper place), indifferent to them.” Unpleasant things at least have the advantage of causing us to withdraw into ourselves in defense and retain our independence and integrity. But pleasant things may draw us outward into identification with them and forgetfulness of our true nature as the Tao. We may literally lose ourselves in them. Great and wise, then, is the one who can live in the midst of glamor and glory, untouched and undisturbed by it.
How can the ruler of a great country make light of his body in the empire (by rushing about)?
Legge: “How should the lord of a myriad chariots carry himself lightly before the kingdom?” Our life sphere is our “kingdom,” but we must not trivialize ourselves by becoming so absorbed in the kingdom that we forget our kingship and forsake our throne. The sage is the absolute opposite of the shallow and trivial people who rush around “living life” to their own detriment.
In light frivolity, the Center is lost.
Legge: “If he does act lightly, he has lost his root (of gravity).” This is a truth that should occupy our concern. Although there are many ills in the world today, perhaps cheapness, shallowness, insubstantiality and triviality are the worst of all. Our “consumer society” is the fruition of such deadly roots.
In hasty action, self-mastery is lost.
Legge: “If he proceed to active movement, he will lose his throne.” Once again we encounter the necessity to act from the still point within so that only the body acts while the mind and spirit remain in perfect stillness. In this way all things can be accomplished within the ever-moving, ever-quiescent Tao.
Next in the Tao Teh King for Awakening: On Stealing the Light