Li. Gain, profit, prosperity. The left side of the symbol for gain shows grain. The right side shows a knife. When the grain is harvested, wealth comes.
Some people might say it is hard to pursue Tao without the gain to support one’s endeavors. But it’s important to distinguish the exact types of gain that will actually bring us profit.
In the beginning, the ancients taught very simple and direct ways to live with Tao. But as time went on, people embellished the teachings until they became a very complicated body of knowledge. Tao became the pursuit of the rich and cultured. Only they could afford the herbs, the lessons, the expensive materials, the beautiful living locations, the servants, the travel, and the myriad other luxuries that afforded the freedom to pursue Tao. For many centuries, the simple and rustic ideals of the ancients were obscured by wealth, alchemy, artistic pursuits, and eccentricity.
We who want Tao may imagine that we will never succeed if the wealth and cultured living of the past are required. But that is not so. Do not be misled by the trappings of those who lived in the past. Look instead to what actually exists in your own life. As long as you live and breathe, as long as your heart beats and your mind dwells on the way, Tao can be found.
If we look at the image of grain, there is a lesson for us. Gain is simply the result of harvest. We don’t need a fancy lifestyle. We need know only where to look for grain and when to harvest it. Those who harvest the ordinary are thosee who ultimately gain.
Harvesting the ordinary. I just love that phrase. Where I live, I’m surrounded by the McMansions, the big SUVs, the people who think these are the symbols of success. I have friends who moved into the McMansions; some of them change so much they are no longer friends with me. Some seem to survive the wealth and become even more wonderful people anyway, but they tend to do a lot for the community and for other people.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to be wealthy, or with inheriting wealth. I think it’s more the attitudes some people have that they are entitled to it and others are not, or that others are poor because they are lazy or stupid. Most poor people I know are disabled in some way, uneducated, haven’t gotten very good breaks on life, or are just choosing to live a bit below their means. I drive cars that are several years old, yes, I drive a minivan because of the utility of it, but believe me, it gets well used. Yes, I’ve been a “soccer mom” and carted around a whole team and equipment. Now it hauls building supplies and things for making upgrades to our 1300 square foot home. No, we are not poor. We are blessed beyond belief. I could afford a bigger house and fancier car, but I don’t need them.
There was certainly a time when my kids were young and I stayed home with them that that wasn’t true.
I call my kids the “anti-consumers” because other than computer upgrades and video games, they don’t want anything else. My 18 year old just got his driver’s license and now has a car (2000 Corolla) so he can drive to college. He’s going to community college, mostly because of his high school grades but also to save money. He’s getting just as good an education without all the expense of a prestigious university (and he won’t be a C student, either). My younger son asked for Dance Dance Revolution for his birthday – that was the only thing he wanted. So now at least his games are keeping him fit, anyway.
I have the luxury of time, because my husband is now doing well enough we don’t really need two full incomes. So I do consulting work and pretty much work when I want to. Since my mom’s death I’ve taken a pretty extensive amount of time off, to be able to deal with various issues as they come up.
So am I wealthy? By the world’s standards, oh yes. By the standards of the people around here? Not really. But to myself, I know I have great wealth. And am very fortunate to have it. So now, it’s time to give back. To the community that has supported my family, to the people I now must care for, since my mom is gone, and to my kids, to get them them started in their lives and careers. And to anyone I meet or find out about that I can help.
And, I expect now, I will be wealthier than ever. With the real wealth of life – harvesting the ordinary.