Most modern societies around the world deem the worth of a human through how much control he or she has over the rest of the community. Success is determined by this metric where you try to enforce your control over your fellow beings. This is basically what most governments do to their citizens and corporations to their employees. The truth is that it’s next to impossible to master the world by trying to change the natural course of things.
Doing the most by doing nothing
We can approach life more effectively by learning the art of letting go. You can dominate the world through a sophisticated understanding of how the world works rather than applying brute force and trying to control everything around you. The main Taoist scriptures, written by Lao Tzu, provide this knowledge, and these teachings are relevant even today in various settings. For instance, it can be viewed as a guide to governing a country. It expands on the concept of ruling without ruling.
In any scenario where a ruler tries to keep people in check and control every aspect of their lives to suit an agenda, things invariably go bad at some point in time. When a ruler has no respect for an individual’s privacy and free will, the people will turn violent. On the other hand, a leader who employs a more passive and laid back approach while keeping in mind the integrity of the individual will be successful in gaining the trust of the people.
We try to exert control over our life partners, our children, and ultimately our future. Through “wu wei,” or “non-action,” Lao Tzu speaks about the importance of not acting in situations to gain control, but instead to flow with a situation. Obviously, the human race has come so far by exercising force on its surrounding environment and there’s nothing wrong with applying ourselves to change our environment for the better. However, it’s important to understand that there’s a limit for everything, and beyond a point, control ruins everything we try to protect and conserve.
Trees are an example of this. You can choose a nice spot to sow the seed, water it, nourish it with manure, and provide access to sunlight, but beyond that, you have no control over how it grows.
Taoism teaches us about the way in which life goes on through the movement between two opposite concepts, such as light and darkness, high and low, yin and yang. Change is inevitable. You can only be successful by learning to adapt to it. Life is about being soft and yielding while death is about being rigid and dry.
You have to learn to go with the natural flow of the stream instead of clutching on to a rock or a branch to control your position. There are also people who waste their energy; who seem to be strangely obligated to keep fighting against the flow of the stream. More than trying to work on your weaknesses, it’s important to follow your strengths and discover what was naturally intended to be your position.
Another aspect of change that needs to be understood is that usefulness is a relative concept. What may be useful to you in one scenario may be worthless or even harmful for you in another. It is important to learn to leave what is useless and move on to what’s useful.
Moderation: the key to happiness
We are at our happiest when we do what we do best without thinking of the rewards or outcomes these may bring. It’s important to understand the balance between being at the top versus being at the bottom. A life of moderation is the key to happiness and letting go is the path to that destination.