Lessons from the Tao Te Ching
— Written by Lao-Tzu — trans. by J.H.. McDonald
Laozi and Mozi
The Tao Te Ching was written around 400 BCE by Laozi (also written as Lao Tzu). He is the founder of Taoism, which is one of the philosophies flourishing during the time in China known as the time of The Hundred Schools of Thought, which thrived from the 6th century BCE to 221 BCE.
According to Mozi, another of China’s great philosophers born c. 470 BCE and died to c. 391 BCE, the achievement of social goals necessitates the unity of thought and action by the people and their rulers. His political philosophy bears a resemblance to divine-rule monarchy: the population ought always to obey its leaders, as its leaders ought always follow the will of heaven.
He is the first major intellectual to rival Confucius, founding the school of Mohism during this period of The Hundred Schools of Thought. His teaching have been summed up into 10 theses that have since been extensively argued. His most famous these is that of:
Jian’ai: This is the injunction that one ought to be concerned for the welfare of people in a spirit of “impartial concern” (jian’ai) that does not make distinctions between self and other, associates and strangers, a doctrine often described more simplistically as “universal love.” -- Encyclopedia of Philosophy
It would not be long before how well the leaders of the people would (or could) follow the will of heaven would be tested.
The Rise of Strongmen and Ruthless Rulers
Qin Shi Huang is the second of the Ruthless Rulers I highlight in my book Sapience: The Moment is Now (not yet published, but soon).
He is the first of the feudal kings of China to conquer all of the Warring States in 221 BCE, which included six dynasties, to create the Qin Dynasty. These territories include most of what we consider modern China today. Upon doing this, he declared himself the first emperor of China and assumed a title implying he possessed divine powers. He begins his rule by persecuting monks and philosophers, which cumulates in the burning of the books and termination of the Hundred Schools of Thought.
"Beginning in 213 BCE, all classic works of the Hundred Schools of Thought — except those from Li Ssu's own school of philosophy known as legalism — were subject to book burning. "Qin Shi Huang burned the other histories out of fear that they undermined his legitimacy, and wrote his own history books. -- History of Information
It is a pattern that has repeated itself over and over and over again since the first Ruthless Ruler walked the Earth. The inability of the people to tolerate diverse groups of thoughts seems to lie at the heart of how and why Ruthless Rulers rise to power.
And yet walking alongside Ruthless Rulers are men and women of rich intellectual mastery and wisdom such as Mozi and Confucius, Plato and Aristotle, Laozi and Zhuangzi who are only a few of individuals who have delved deeply into the human psyche and wrestled with the unknowable.
More than any time in our collective history, we need so many more people to take the plunge and do the same. To wrestled with the monsters that live inside all of us. We need groups of people in greater numbers than ever before to contemplate, debate, mutter and muster greater understanding for the tremendous diversity of thoughts, ideas, and philosophies we are capable of conceiving and creating into reality using nothing more than our minds to imagine something different than nature would have previously allowed to exist. We must work and stretch our minds far beyond the simple ploys Strongmen use to generate arguments and embed slogans into minds meant to bend the into little boxes that are easy to control and use like disposable commodities.
This is what Strongmen do, as they endlessly dream of becoming the next great Ruthless Ruler.
We see it playing out again, right here, right now, in our own countries wherever they are as the tide of intolerance, bigotry, racism, nationalism, patriotism, partisanism sweep strongmen into powerful positions–Jair Bolsonaro, Viktor Orbán, Marine Le Pen, Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping, Putin, and formerly Trump.
They use righteous ideas and righteous talk like jack hammers that steadily chip away at the unity of thought and action Mozi talked about centuries ago as essential for collective good of all. When their speech doesn’t flame the right pit of emotion and opposition arises, they use violence (if they can get away with it) to silence those who don’t agree with them.
Images from the bottom to the top:
- This is the year of the political strongman | They are busy retelling history as a way of rekindling past glories and reviving old grievances
- The strange allure of the strongman leader | Authoritarians and autocrats continue to flourish despite a long parade of inadequacy. Can liberal democracy strike back? By Jeremy Cliffe
- The Age of the Strongman by Gideon Rachman review — how Putin gets away with murder | Autocrats threaten global democracy, says this lucid book — but their time may be up, considers Roger Boyes
- The Age of The Strongman by Gideon Rachman review – a rogues gallery of autocrats | Putin is the archetype and role model for a generation of hardline populist leaders, from Bolsonaro to Trump
- The Age of the Strongman: How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy Around the World | From Putin, Trump, and Bolsonaro to Erdoğan, Orbán, and Xi, an intimate look at the rise of strongman leaders around the world.
- THE AGE OF THE STRONGMAN –– How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy around the World
- The Age of the Strongman by Gideon Rachman review — from Putin to Xi and Trump | It’s alarming how many modern strongmen began life as moderates
- The Age of the Strongman | How the Cult of the Leader Threatens Democracy Around the World
What Will We Do?
Will we let ourselves be torn to pieces by ideas and thoughts flung about by Strongmen and Ruthless Ruler? It always ends the same way. They reign with terror tearing down and destroying anything good and wholesome a country or group of people has managed to achieve, turning on those who turn against them, annihilating anyone or anything who dares to question them. They tell their followers they have been sent here on a divine mission, they have been sent by God, or indeed, they are God and everyone must bend down before them.
It is for this reason I will highlight parts of Laozi’s book written so many centuries earlier. A man who was believed by the people to be a god and worshipped, though I suspect Laozi would have tolerated this as a bit foolish…he knew he was a man with faults and foibles…that is what his teachings are about navigating the stream we call ourselves full of faults and foibles, wisdom and knowledge, danger and destruction. He advocated the middle way. His system of thinking would serve modern men and women well right now in the dangerous tides we ourselves have created and now must swim.
Here is his first chapter of his masterpiece of thinking animated with modern images and music from our time now.
Chapter 1 — Tao Te Ching
First Archetypal Animation & Stanza
The tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name.
Second Archetypal Animation & Stanza
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth. The named is the mother of creation.
Third Archetypal Animation & Stanza
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery. By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Fourth Archetypal Animation & Stanza (also Feature Animation)
Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source. This source is called darkness. Darkness born from darkness. The beginning of all understanding.
Addition Relevant Resources
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.
The most certain way to succeed is always
to try just one more time.” — Thomas A. Edison
Scott Simon talks with Hernan Diaz about his novel, “Trust.” It tells the story of a New York tycoon who takes advantage of the 1929 crash, and his attempts to rewrite and control his own story. In this interview, Diaz tells Scott that power is the ability to bend reality and shape what others perceive as real. Power imposes someone else’s reality onto others. Wealth and money (and the desire to get more money) does this to people. They burn with the desire to have more of that kind of power over others. Great fortunes create a reality in and of themselves that others are eager to have a part or piece of.
Images from: The Power of Trust: How Companies Build It, Lose It, Regain It; Trust by Hernan Diaz; Power Wealth Classics; Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World
From workplaces to schools to national governments, leaders everywhere are being called on to solve complex problems with humility and bravery. This hour, we consider what it takes to be a leader. Guests include executive coach Patrice Gordon, organizational psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and educator Shabana Basij-Rasikh.
I found the first interview particularly compelling as the speaker relates our ancient programming to have strong men leading a tribe or clan. These were times when groups were small and all members knew the integrity of every other member and whether they could be trusted or not. However, as our small bands and groups of people surviving together against vast and overwhelming odds have grown into vast civilizations, the qualities of a good ruler have shifted tremendously.
A good ruler today does not act on gut instinct, as would have been the right thing to do 10,000 years ago. A good ruler today actually must go against gut instinct to grasp the greater complexities of our modern realities and make more calculated, incremental moves that benefits all members of the collective, even those who are against the leader. But as people electing who to rule us, we are still vastly informed by our own gut instincts and emotions choosing ruler who we feel we could have beer with rather than rulers who could stare down the missile silo of a narcissist idiot threatening to use nuclear weapons on the world.
Images from: What Leadership Looks Like | Ted Radio Hour; Trump may tweet better. But nobody rides an ICBM like Putin; Russia nuclear threat: Putin’s deadly underwater nuke which can devastate US targets; Russia warns that it will see any missile launched at its territory as a nuclear attack; Russia has ‘unstoppable’ supersonic nuclear missile that cannot be traced by Western defence systems, says Putin; Vladimir Putin’s 4,000mph nuke can reach Britain in 13 MINUTES – and it CANNOT be stopped
What lovely, reassuring smile Putin has on that last picture!
The New Gilded Age | Throughline
“The World Economic Forum annual meeting at Davos, Switzerland, 2019 – an exclusive event where the world’s richest and most powerful people get together to solve the world’s problems. I was there when David Attenborough, you know, was showing his new film. The Garden of Eden is no more. Beautiful – you know, absolutely beautiful, stunning footage of how we’re wrecking the planet. And people were literally crying while they were seeing it. And I was thinking, but, guys, you arrived here in your private jets.”
Images from: File:World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2005a.jpg; World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020; ‘Garden of Eden is no more’, Sir David Attenborough tells Davos; Prince William turns interviewer in Davos appearance with Attenborough; Too much money is bad; May 23, 1937: The Death Of The Ultimate Oil Man; The First Battle for Oil in Norway: The Long Arm of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil; The Ultimate List of Corporate Philanthropy Benefits and How To Achieve Them; The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills; The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty; Were the Titans of the Gilded Age “Robber Barons” or “Entrepreneurial Industrialists”?; Gilded Age Blog; Up To a Point: Robber Barons Make Way For Robber Nerds; The Modern Robber Barons; Ludlow Massacre; On This Day April 20, 1914: Remembering the Ludlow Massacre; Ludlow Massacre: PBS;
Why Russia’s military appears to be struggling in Ukraine
Aired May 1, 2022 on Heard on All Things Considered
Why does Russia's massive and powerful military force continue to struggle against a smaller, less well-equipped opponent? Journalist David Volodzko wrote about this in a recent piece in The Daily Beast titled "The Embarrassing Truth Behind Putin's War Failures." He says the Russians appear not to have internalized the lessons they could have learned during other conflicts, particularly the civil war in Syria, where Russia backed the government of dictator Bashar al-Assad. -- MICHEL MARTIN, HOST
The problem is, in April 2021, I believe, the company that makes the Azart and its owner, Leonid Reiman, who's the former minister of communications, came under investigation for fraud. They had evidently been using cheap Chinese parts. This led to a bunch of problems, including the batteries didn't really work that well. So they've had to switch instead, and they're largely using mobile phones and things of that nature. And this is just one example of how corruption has left Putin and his army out in the open, in a sense, and exposed. -- DAVID VOLODZKO
I think that we all have overestimated Russia's military capabilities. And, I would add, I think that Putin did, too. One point that I make in the piece is that Moscow recently purged 150 Federal Security Service agents, and they sent the head of the FSB's fifth service, which handles counterinsurgency ops in Ukraine, to Lefortovo Prison. Now, there's a couple different theories as to why, and I'm inclined to go with the official explanation on this one, which is that Beseda lied to the state and stole funds. -- DAVID VOLODZKO
So again, as with the radio communications issue, we see corruption coming back to bite Russia. And as a consequence of that, Putin may have gone in on bad intel, thinking that the Ukrainians were going to be waiting with flowers instead of Bandera smoothies - which is, you know, Ukraine's version of a Molotov cocktail - and going in with bad gear, thinking that he had the best and the latest. And so as much as we fell for this idea of Russia being much more powerful than they are, much more capable than they are, Putin fell for that himself. -- DAVID VOLODZKO
Ridley Road | Masterpiece Theater
`Ridley Road' is the story of the 62 Group, a collection of anti-fascists who stood up against the rising neo-Nazi movement in Britain after World War Two, based on Jo Bloom's book of the same name, released in 2014. In the summer of 1962, twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. Alone in the world, she is looking for Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense love affair with some months before. Her search leads her into the fight against resurgent fascism in East London, where members of the Jewish community are taking to the streets, in and around Ridley Road. -- Google Knowledge Panel Note: This is 1962 this movies is about; just 17 years after Nazi Germany almost successfully invaded England.
Images from: Ridley Road; Ridley Road review – fascism thriller resonates in our current dark age; What is Ridley Road About?; Ridley Road: Viewers are all doing the same thing after episode two of the BBC drama; Ridley Road review – fascism thriller resonates in our current dark age