2nd Verse – Duality


Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty,
only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Being and nonbeing produce each other.
The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
Before and after go along with each other.

So the sage lives openly with apparent duality and paradoxical unity.
The sage can act without effort
and teach without words.
Nurturing things without possessing them,
he works, but not for rewards;
he competes, but not for results.

When the work is done, it is forgotten.
That is why it lasts forever.

“Why do good things always happen to {insert name of that person you hate because they are successful, happy, etc.}? He/she always gets everything that he/she wants and everything always goes his/her way. I always get the short end of the stick. Why do bad things always happen to me? It’s not fair!”

Sound familiar. Do you ever find yourself sounding like this? Maybe you don’t sound exactly like this, but the point is do you ever find yourself focusing on all of the bad things in your life and not giving credit to the good things? Do you feel like everyone else is winning the race and you are being left behind?

To me this type of thinking is what this verse is addressing.

The first two stanzas refer to the apparent duality of our existence. Basically what Chinese philosophy refers to as the Ying and the Yang.

In the third stanza we see that the sage (wise one) lives with this duality. How does he/she live with it? I think that the word “apparent” in the first line is the key to this entire verse. The verse says “apparent duality” because there really is no duality at all. We create the duality in our minds because of the labels that we place on everything (see the previous post on the 1st verse).

Things Just Are

Everything in the universe is just as it is. Good does not try to push out the bad and bad does not try to push out the good. They live in harmony, one accepting the other. Why? Because they don’t really even exist. They are created by our own minds when we label things as good or bad.

Therefore things are not really good or bad; they just are. We choose to make them good or bad, difficult or easy, beautiful or ugly, etc. If we let go of those labels, we can see that everything is happening for a reason. Even those things that we would choose to label as bad have a reason for being in our lives just as much as those things we label as good.

The Sage

“The sage can act without effort” because he/she is doing what should be done without complaining about how hard it is or how he/she doesn’t want to do it.

The sage can teach without words because he/she is acting in a flow with the universe instead of fighting against it. He/she is teaching simply by his/her actions.

The sage can nurture things without possessing them because he/she is not putting labels like “mine” or “yours” on anything.

The sage “works, but not for rewards” and “competes, but not for results” because he/she is in tune with universal flow and is not concerned with results.

When the Work is Done

The last stanza is a little more confusing and I meditated on this for a long time before it hit me. “When the work is done it is forgotten” because there was never really any work to be done. The answer or the result that you were looking for was always there, you just need to open up to it. It lasts forever because your true self is part of the source of the universe which is infinite.

Why Not Me?

I can relate this to my own life and the struggles that I have endured with my son. He has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and ADHD. This is a powerful mix and it has been a struggle to deal with. For most of his life I have found myself thinking “why me”. What did I do to be given a child with these issues? Why do I have to live through these constant struggles and mental exertion just to get through the day?

He is a beautiful and wonderful child when given the chance. However, I was too stuck in the mindset of “why me” to pay attention to that. All along I should have been asking “why not me”.

Why not me? He is exactly what I needed in my life to wake up from the cycle of negativity, anger and lack of zest for life that my family tree seems to have been ensnared by.

Why not me? He is the most loving, nurturing, attentive, and beautiful soul that I know, which are traits that we all could learn from.

Why not me? He has a zest for life and an uncanny ability to forgive that continues to amaze me, which is something that I continue to struggle with.

Why not me? He has changed my life for the better.

He is ten now and I have finally woken up to all of this. Do you think that he hates me for waiting so long to open up to the real him? Do you think that he resents how I have acted towards him much of time over the past 10 years?

Not a bit. It is like somehow he innately knows this verse from the Tao Te Ching. It is like he lives it even though he has never even heard of it, much less read it. He loves me unconditionally even though, as painful as it is to say, for much of his childhood I have resented him because of how the SPD and ADHD manifest themselves.

He somehow knows that all of the “work” that took me to get to this point is forgotten. What matters are the lessons that I learned and how I have opened up to my true self. That is something that lasts forever.

So if you have frequent thoughts like those at the beginning of this post, realize that things are the way they are for a reason. Even the so called bad things or situations have a purpose.

Don’t get caught up in the apparent duality caused by labeling things. Notice when you label things as bad or good and look for the underlying purpose.

If you look back over your life, can you see situations that at the time you labeled as bad, but later realized that it was good that it happened?


2 thoughts on “2nd Verse – Duality

  1. Sean you are a great writer! You break it down so perfectly even I can understand. So crazy how just a few lines can hit you (me) square in the face and then I am like this is what I need to be doing!

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