A green bird darting in the night.
Will you be able to see it?
Will you be able to catch it?
Cling to Tao like a shadow.
Move without a shadow.
Times of oppression and adversity cannot last forever. How is the transition made to new and better situations? In the midst of great difficulty, a tiny opportunity will open, if only by chance. You must be sharp enough to discern it, quick enough to catch it, and determined enough to do something with it. If you let it pass, you will be filled with regrets.
Stick to Tao like a shadow. Wherever it goes, you go. As soon as it throws something your way, catch it by sheer reflex. It is like the bird: If you try to catch it, you will miss. If you are always with it, moving at its speed as much a part of it as its own shadow, then it is easy to seize it.
When you act, however, you in turn must have no shadow. In other words, what you do must leave no messages, no leftover consequences, nothing that will haunt you later. That is one of the ways in which you avoid creating more bad situations for yourself: Your every movement is traceless.
The greatest martial arts are the gentlest. They allow an attacker the opportunity to fall down. The greatest generals do not rush into every battle. They offer the enemy many opportunities to make self-defeating errors. The greatest administrators do not achieve production through constrainsts and limitations. They provide opportunities.
Good leadership consists of motivating people to their highest levels by offering them opportunities, not obligations. That is how things happen naturally. Life is an opportunity, not an obligation.
No, the Chinese symbol for crisis is not the same as that for opportunity. See Pinyin.info or
Straight Dope for the details. I’m really tired of this myth. But it is true that when things seem very difficult, you have to look for any opportunity to change how things are going, and be ready to act on it.
I’ve had many wonderful opportunities in my life. I have few regrets about not taking an opportunity, although leaving traces, messiness and consequences from my own actions has left me with regrets. That is a part of Tao where I still need to do much more work.