Living with the Tao Te Ching in ordinary life.
We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the centre hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay in a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
This verse speaks to me about the balance of doing and non-doing and the busyness of our lives.
We are so busy doing, striving and achieving out there in the world, but this often comes at the cost of neglecting ourselves and ignoring our inner worlds. And, while worldly achievement isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself, it can feel pointless and meaningless without also having a balanced and rich inner life.
This verse pays respect to the outer achievements of life, it isn't judgemental or condemning in its descriptions, in fact, it cleverly touches on all the modes of modern life - the concepts of technology (the wheel), of craft and design and general utilities (the clay pot), and also the essentials of living (building a house).
But, the very last verse brings it back to the key lesson, that of balancing being and non-being. This is the deeper and more spiritual aspects of life, the form and the formless, existence and non-existence.
So, while we live much of our lives in the physical world, it is the metaphysical aspects of life that we are utilising - those aspects of energy and consciousness. We don't breathe for ourselves, we are breathed. We don't concentrate on ensuring the functioning of the billions of processes in our body each moment, they take care of that themselves. We remain miraculously alive each second because something greater than ourselves is in play.
While we go about our busyness, it would serve us well to try and remain humble and grateful as to what is really important and what really matters, and if we do then we could enjoy the fruits of our physical labours so much more.