The Tao Te Ching is a timeless masterpiece. Legendary Fantasy and Science Fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin’s rendition is my favourite. She describes it thus:
The Tao Te Ching was probably written about twenty-five hundred years ago, perhaps by a man called Lao Tzu, who may have lived at about the same time as Confucius. Nothing about it is certain except that it is Chinese, and very old, and speaks to people everywhere as if it had been written yesterday.
And here’s Mr Tzu himself:
You don’t have to go out the door
to know what goes on in the world
You don’t have to look out the window
to see the way of heaven
The farther you go,
The less you know.
So the wise soul
doesn’t go, but knows;
doesn’t look, but sees;
doesn’t do, but gets it done.
We Westerners are a wealthy, restless lot and frequent travel to exotic locations is all the rage. Cheap oil has given us easy access to the jet-plane, so we stuff our suitcases and sashay around the stratosphere in what is fast becoming Planet Greenhouse meets Hades’ Solarium.
Is all this really necessary? Travel was once a luxury: Now it is commonplace.
Perhaps it’s time to travel less. Our planet is clearly stressed and our peripatetic obsession needs reflection. Let’s give Earth the space and time to regenerate while we do our inner work.
If this sounds mysterious, grab yourself a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and keep the Tao Te Ching nearby. These two spiritual masterpieces, written thousands of years apart, give us clear and practical guidance on how to do this inner work and why it’s necessary.
As we pack our bags for yet another overseas quest, please recall the words of the Roman poet Horace: “Those who hurry across the sea change the sky upon them, not their souls.”
Lao Tzu would add that travel with the “inner eye” is more likely to bring wisdom.
It’s also more likely to slow global warming.
Book to the future
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way. A new English version by Ursula K. Le Guin. Shambhala, Boston & London, 1998