Tao Tuesday – Chapter 18

Every Tuesday, Amy Putkonin posts a chapter from her excellent interpretation of the “Tao Te Ching” on her blog “Tao Te Ching Daily” (while there, check out the interview with Deng Ming-Dao!! He’s a leading author on Taoism, and his books include “Scholar Warrior” “Tao 365” and most recently “The Lunar Tao”). Ms. Putkonin has opened the “Tao Tuesday” posts to the blog community inviting us to comment on the chapter as well. Taoism is very meaningful to me personally, so I’m honored to be a part of the Taoist community in this small way. Thank you for reading!

Chapter 18

When the Great Tao is forgotten,
kindness and morality appear.

When intellect and knowledge
are emphasized,
there is great hypocrisy in the heart.

Family is no longer in harmony
when there is preaching
of duty and affection.

The nation is in disorder
when patriotic loyalty
is admired.

– See more at: http://taotechingdaily.com/tao-tuesdays-chapter-18/#sthash.1XQELmfx.dpuf

Had to chuckle when I read this chapter yesterday. What a lovely coincidence to have a chapter mentioning a nation in disorder considering current political events in the U.S. But that is an example, not the real point of the chapter.

This chapter, it seems to me is about motivation and authenticity with shades of humanism. In the first lines, we are reassured that left to our own devices, most people are pretty decent, even without a greater authority or dogma looming – [even] when the “Great Tao” is forgotten, kindness appears.

The rest shows what happens when “should” and dogma enters the picture. If people do kind things because they think it is what should be done, or that is what they were always taught that kind of thing is what good people do…they are acting with less authenticity, less genuine kindness than the state described in the first few lines. Ulterior motives sneak in more than with the left-to-their-own-devices kindness.

The last lines remind me of the modern connotation of “methinks he doth protest too much”…where someone says something so much and so vehemently that it appears the opposite is true. It is a sort of hypocrisy gap, or natural lie detector. The more people preach “family values” the less harmonious and family-like their relationships are, or the more people crow about patriotism, the more likely it is their secret desire is to overthrow the government.

I feel odd politicizing this, but the “I told you so” is pretty tempting. Does any of this remind you of any particular factions in U.S national news over the past dozen (or maybe 30) years or so?

The more things change, the more they stay the same someone once said. Whoever wrote the Tao Te Ching has an astute eye for human nature it seems. By giving this example of what not to do, we see the better path…quiet authenticity.