Should you want to contain something,
you must deliberately let it expand.
Should you want to weaken something,
you must deliberately let it grow.
Should you want to eliminate something,
you must allow it to flourish.
Should you want to take something away,
you must deliberately grant to access.
The lesson here is called the wisdom of obscurity.
The gentle outlasts the strong.
The obscure outlasts the obvious.
Fish cannot leave deep waters,
and a country’s weapons should not be displayed.
Duality of Life
The opening stanza of this verse speaks of the dual nature of life itself. Everything has its opposite. Where there is love, there must also be hate. Where there is peace, there must also be conflict. If we did not know one, we would not know the other. If you have never experienced sadness, how could you really understand Joy? Because of this duality, it is fruitless to fight against it.
If there is a conflict that you wish to stop, you could step in and attempt to take control. However, this will just add more fuel to the conflict. If instead you let the conflict continue and focus on being the model of love and peace in the midst of the conflict, eventually the conflict will end.
Wisdom of obscurity
Those striving to be recognized will not last. If that is the sole goal of their efforts, eventually they will fall. By not needing to be recognized and instead realizing the quiet greatness of your underlying spirit, you last forever.
Instead of asking to be recognized, allow. Allow life to happen. Allow the Tao to guide you. Allow others to seek popularity and attention if that is what they wish. Don’t fight against the great way thinking that you know better than the wisdom of creation.
This doesn’t mean that one should not strive for anything or purposely attempt to not stand out. It means that those things should not be the goal. It may happen as a matter of course, but don’t attempt to force it to happen. Remember from verse 23, a forced action cannot be maintained.
The key here is to let go of the desire to be more “anything” just because that is what you think that will make you more important in the eyes of others. Know that you already are enough.