Enough is Enough
Lao Tzu Proverb: "The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step."
Around 500 BC, Socrates developed a political and ethical philosophy in Greece, Pythagoras founded a mathematical, astronomical and philosophical society in Greece, Buddha expounded about Dharma and Nirvana in India, and Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching in China. It was an epoch of great intellectual and mystical evolution.
According to legend, Lao Tzu was born into a noble family in Hunan Province. He was in his thirteenth, and final, incarnation. He worked as a curator in the Imperial Library of the Zhou Dynasty where he met a young man named Confucius who had been browsing the library scrolls. For months, Lao Tzu and Confucius had lengthy discussions; Confucius believed in ritual and propriety whereas Lao Tzu considered them to be hollow practices.
Later, Lao Tzu set out on a journey of silence into the wilderness. When he arrived at the Han Gu Pass, a gatekeeper persuaded him to write down some of his wisdom. Lao Tzu immediately wrote all 81 chapters of the Tao Te Ching, the most influential book of Chinese philosophical thought, providing the basis for Taoism.
Lao Tzu Proverb: "If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading."
At the time, Chinese society was under a feudal system where the vast majority of the population was controlled by wealthy landowners and the government was becoming increasingly centralized and bureaucratic.
Confucius went on to become a famous social philosopher. He was a major proponent and architect of the strong centralized government, and recommended a social hierarchy in which everyone knew their place. He believed in the virtues of social discipline, obedience and duty, and thus wanted to reform society accordingly.
Whereas Confucianism wanted to conquer and exploit nature, the Taoists preferred to be at one with nature. Therefore, the Taoists rejected an imposed authority and believed everyone could live in a natural state of harmony. They wanted to contemplate and understand the flow of existence rather than attempt to harness it.
Lao Tzu Proverb: "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."
Thus, there was a basic philosophical/political struggle. The Confucians wanted a structured social hierarchy and the Taoists wanted anarchy (the absence of a hierarchy whereby every person is of equal social status).
Some 2,500 years later, the same philosophical/political struggle continues. Influential men, in the realm of the power centers of the dollar, the sword and the soul, continue to seek control of earthly possessions through authoritarian means. Governments become tools of greed and evolve into unrestrained, suffocating organisms.
Lao Tzu Proverb: "The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves there will be."
The primary principle of Taoism is that the world should be ruled by letting things take their course rather than by interfering. Unfortunately, one person's ideal existence is another person's opportunity to take over.
In 1949, the Communists, officially atheistic, gained control of China and initiated a one-party government. Religion was outlawed. Taoist monks were sent to labor camps and Taoist infrastructure was destroyed. A hierarchical social structure prevailed and obedience was required. The Confucians were in control once again.
In 1982, some religious tolerance was restored, allowing the existence of five religions, including Taoism.
Little has changed in 2,500 years. Many human beings are still insecure, self-serving, intolerant and greedy.
Lao Tzu Proverb: "He who knows enough is enough will always have enough."
The struggle for freedom never ends. Too many people want everyone to adhere to their personal code of morality or means of support, and use government as an instrument to coerce others to conform to their ideals.
Freedom is never free. If you just stand by and go with the flow, sooner or later the flow is going to include a whole bunch of self-righteous fanatics who will stomp all over you and utilize you to benefit themselves.
Without freedom, we're merely pawns in someone else's game.
Live free or die.
Lao Tzu Proverb: "If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve."
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Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.