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The Beauty Of The Tao Te Ching Verse 13

Living with the Tao Te Ching in ordinary life.

Verse 13

Success is as dangerous as failure.

Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?

Whether you go up the ladder or down it,

your position is shaky.

When you stand with two feet on the ground,

you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?

Hope and fear are both phantoms

that arise from thinking of the self.

When we don't see the self as self,

what do we have to fear?

See the world as your self.

Have faith in the way things are.

Love the world as your self;

then you can care for all things.


This verse speaks to me about getting out of our own way; a theme which runs consistently throughout The Tao Te Ching.

When our thoughts are preoccupied with ourselves and our worldly status, we are often in turmoil and suffering stressful thoughts.

In the outside world, there is always something to attain, something to aspire to, someone to compete with. We assess our value based on our achievements, or, as this verse suggests, where we are on the ladder of success.

Some questions that we might want to ask ourselves - What is success? What would we consider to be a successful life?

Also, upon which wall is the ladder resting against? Financial success? Physical appearance? Spirituality?

The Tao recommends keeping both feet on the ground; balance.

When we are caught up in the chasing of worldly pursuits, we are usually battered between two polarities, like the ball in a pinball game; hope and fear.

We have hope.

Hope is always about the future. We don't need hope in the present moment because we are here already and still breathing, heart still beating, blood still pumping. When we have hope though, we immediately engage it's opposite - hopelessness. We either get what we want and we will be happy, or we don't get it and we feel depressed. Having experienced hopelessness and knowing how it feels, when we send out hope we always have the fear of that fear not being realised.

Hope and fear are all selfish, they only come about when we are thinking about ourselves, and our hopes and dreams. If we could let go of any thoughts of self, we would just be content to experience the world just as it is and exactly how it presents itself in each moment.

We wouldn't need to project our own agenda on to it.

We would simply enjoy ourselves, rather than suffer ourselves.

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