Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.
But but… I hear you saying in protest to these lines, the ideas of success and hope so ingrained into our collective psyches. Just hear me out, it’ll make more sense shortly!
We’re starting to get into variations on themes here in these chapters and this calls back to Chapter two’s No Judging! Here we have a different spin on the same principle, and one that may be a little more painful to look at.
I was watching Love and Other Drugs the other night, about a woman with early onset Parkinson’s. Some fella falls in love with her, starts dragging her around to no end of cutting edge experimental treatments until she finally gets pissed off and walks out; tired of living life in hospitals, she wants to get back to her actual life. The fella chases her down, asks: “Don’t you want to get better?” She answers: “Yes. Desperately. It’s not gonna happen.” This woman’s got the wisdom to live the life she’s got rather than wasting it on pursuing the life society says she should have.
Hope, just because it’s optimistic doesn’t make it any less a delusion. Hope is wishing for something other than what you have now; fear is worrying about what’s coming next. Flip sides of the same coin: not being in the moment, not allowing yourself to just be. Same with success and failure – both are views of where you think you should be, measuring yourself by some external stick of who you should be instead of seeing you are exactly where you need to be for your life, right now.
This chapter again reminds us to be in the moment and just let it slide into the next moment. The only constant is change, let it all unfold as it should. What you see presently as success may turn out to be what traps you in material attachment, while your current “failure” may just be the thing that sets you free.
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Now, before you think I (or Taoism in general) am some black turtleneck wearing, Niche quoting, nihilist pissing on the delusions of hope this needs a whole part two where I quote the last stanza of this chapter and explain what that means to me:
See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self,
then you can care for all things.
Part of what happens when you can just drop the monkey mind and be in the moment is that sense of interconnectivity of all things, and in that space is love and peace and a quiet confidence in the way things are. That sort of everything-will-be-okay comfort no matter where you’re at.
I was at some environmental pray for the healing of the earth, give the planet some love sort of event a while back. I’d had a really rough day, but dragged myself anyway, to try and get out of my head and my own foul mood. Amid the thrumming drums and wafting scents of patchouli and armpit (yeah, you know the crowd) I fell into that in-the-moment space, sitting looking at the giant globe they’d hung from the ceiling I realized: “Healing of the Earth? Pffft! The planet is fine just as it is.” Beautifully perfect, this interconnected organism, living fully with all it’s variables, is exactly as it should be; there’s nothing to heal. And the awareness of that filled me with love for the planet and everyone and everything on it, suddenly patient and accepting and ok with it all, just as it was.
It’s so hard to describe, there really are no words, but in those moments when you can drop your ego-identity, stop clinging to the past or grasping for the future, in that moment is: peace, a sense of security that is real and eternal (because it isn’t connected to anything as transitory as “self”) and a simple faith in how things are and how they will unfold. And that is way more positive and optimistic than simply hoping for something to be other than what it is.
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And because this particular issue is my spiritual Achilles heel, I write about it a lot. If you want more thoughts to help you get your head around struggles of hope and failure and letting go, check out: resignation isn’t the same thing as acceptance and my thoughts on a Walt Witman poem, It is Enough. Lots of the posts around that time were dealing with these issues. Have a browse, I’d love your comments – even on the old posts!