Invisibility

Slave Market with the Appartion of the Invisible Bust of Voltaire, Salvadore Dali

Invisibility is the best advantage.
But if forced to a confrontation,
Come out with all your skill.

There was once a roadside vendor who sold rheumatism formulas to the passersby. He was a cheery old man who was faithfully at his spot for years. One day a young bully began to harass the vendor. The old man tried very hard to avoid the confrontation, but eventually the bully became convinced that he had a coward to abuse as he pleased. When the moment of attack came, the old man defeated him with superior boxing skills. Significantly, the old man was never seen again. He had manifested his superiority at a critical moment, but once he had exposed himself, he disappeared.

In this competitive world, it is best to be invisible. Go through life without showing off, attracting attention to yourself, or making flamboyant gestures. These will only attract the hostility of others. The wise accomplish all that they want without arousing the envy or scorn of others. They make achievements only for the sake of fulfilling their inner yearnings.

Yet it is inevitable that you will have to prove yourself at one time or another. When that is necessary, then you must marshal all your skills and do your very best. Prove yourself when it is demanded, and when you must prove yourself, be superior. At that moment, it is no time to talk of philosophy and humility. Act. Do. Then fade back into invisibility.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.
– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 11

Look, it cannot be seen – it is beyond form.
Listen, it cannot be heard – it is beyond sound.
Grasp, it cannot be held – it is intangible.
These three are indefinable;
Therefore they are joined in one.
From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark:
An unbroken thread beyond description.
It returns to nothingness.
The form of the formless, the image of the imageless, it is called indefinable and beyond imagination.
Stand before it and there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the ancient Tao, move with the present.
Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.
– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 14

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.
Keep your mouth closed.
Guard your senses.
Temper your sharpness.
Simplify your problems.
Mask your brightness.
Be at one with the dust of the earth.
This is primal union.
He who has achieved this state
is unconcerned with friends and enemies,
with good and harm, with honour and disgrace.
This therefore is the highest state of man.
– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 56

Tao is invisible, and yet it is everywhere. We don’t see it so much as we feel its presence andd see its results. In our lives, we notice the people who talk the most, who try to get all the attention, the ones who focus on their looks or have the bubbly personalities or those who make a scene.

But if we look for the people who really make things work, who are there for us when we most need them, and not just to return a favor but when there are no favors to be returned, we will find them most often sitting quietly to the side, waiting for when they are needed to act. And when we ask something of those people, they will be there for us, more reliable than those who are full of talk or bright and bubbly or causing a scene.

Don’t exclude the quiet people from your life who seem so invisible. They will be your confidant, the one who keeps your secrets and doesn’t gossip about you, the one who is there in your most desperate hour when there is no one else you can share your secrets with. They will be the one who loves you and tells you there is hope for a different life than the one that makes you feel so bitter and angry and cynical. They will be the one who loans you money when you need it most, the one who helps you move when no one else is around, the one who indulges you when you most need it. They will be the one who is there for you when you feel there is no chance someone will find you attractive and desirable again.

Invisible? No, not really. Only to those who shut them out of their lives.