The great Tao is like a flood
It can flow to the left or to the right
The myriad things depend on it for life, but it never stops
It achieves its work, but does not take credit
It clothes and feeds myriad things, but does not rule over them
Ever desiring nothing
It can be named insignificant
Myriad things return to it but it does not rule over them
It can be named great
Even in the end, it does not regard itself as great
That is how it can achieve its greatness
Spasms of molten rock
Piled a cone three miles high.
Rain and wind split a hundred towering fingers.
In time, trees strove for leverage in the fissures.
After a million years, condors and snakes took up residence.
Mighty rock, carved walls adorned with
Chartreuse and vermilion lichen —
Man yet more puny on those stones.
How long will it take to see Tao?
Until you no longer hold self-importance.
Compared to the massive movements of heaven and earth, compared to the immensity of geologic time, the greatest acts of humanity and their monuments are beneath significance. We climb the highest mountains, we dive to the depths of the sea, we fling ourselves as close to the sun as we dare, and we are not even on the scale of nature’s measure. In our egotism and our view of ourselves as the center of the universe, we imagine that our lives have some meaning and importance when placed beside the stars and mountains and rivers. They do not. We cannot hope to have any true meaning in the history of the universe. But we can know it better, we can be a better part of it.
If you want to know the force that keeps the sky blue, the stars burning, the mountains high and still, the rivers running, and the oceans flowing, then remove the veil that stands between you and Tao.
It’s difficult to remember sometimes that, for all that we feel our lives are so important and signinficant, they are not even the blink of an eye in the passing of time. Not so long ago, dinosaurs ruled this planet and the largest mammal was a small shrew. Now, we think we rule the earth, but the simple reality is that the earth will still be here after all of us now alive are long gone. People fret about global warming and climate change, but earth has passed through many ice ages and tropical heat waves long before we were around. And the larger universe will still be around long after our sun dies a cold death.
The best we can do is to enjoy this life and try to make it as good as we can for as many around us as we can, and not treat others as insignificant, since they are no more so than we ourselves are. The smile you give to a passing stranger may be the only one they see all day, so don’t be afraid to be kind even if nothing seems to be returned to you. Recognize the other within those you meet, and know that they are just like you, in so many ways.