Book Summaries Philosophy

Idea 5: Fear is an Illusion (Tao Te Ching)

One of the most difficult things is to recognize that fear is a result of your own expectations. When you learn to have no goal, to embrace nothing, you will have no fear.

CHAPTER 38: No Expectations

The Master doesn’t try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.
When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.
Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.

Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” But not even that. Most of the time, fear is an illusion that has no connection to reality. And there is nothing to fear about an illusion.

CHAPTER 46: Fear is an Illusion

When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.
There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

We have an impulse to be attached to things, especially to our own behavior. But we must practice the art of letting go. When we give everything we can, we must learn to be happy to step back. What takes wondrous shapes will not come only from our work, but from the gaps in between.

CHAPTER 9: Do You Work, then Step Back

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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