The Author Reading Chapter 48 - Interfering
I always thought there must be a mystery in the world about which no one would tell me. The mystery wasn’t to be found in any book; I had read them all. The mystery wasn’t to be found in the universities; I had attended all the classes. The mystery wasn’t to be found on mountain tops; I had climbed them all.
I always thought people were interfering with me so that I would stop seeking for the mystery of the world that no one wanted me to know about. I imagined them outside in the dark hiding in weeds watching me through lighted windows ready to pounce upon me should I come too close to my goals. Though I pulled down the shades and stayed up all night lest they break into my abode during my sleep to steal my dreams I never saw anyone at all.
After a while I began wondering if I was wrong about the mystery in the world. I reasoned that if such a mystery existed everyone would know of it. Libraries would be filled with the knowledge. The mystery’s splendor would be written across the mountains and reflected by every ocean. Every scholar would be aware of it and teach it willingly.
I took a family and a job. In time life interfered until I forgot about any lingering trace of the mystery. Once in a great while I might hear a snatch of song that reminded me of something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on; once in a blue moon I might catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a fleeting image that seemed both foreign and familiar at the same time; when I looked it was gone.
I immersed myself in the world of desire; I no longer had any time to dream of the mystery. I told myself I had imagined it all. I scolded myself for letting my sense of the mystery interfere with my life for as long as it did. I knew there was no one waiting outside my windows watching me; I knew there never was anything in the world like the mystery I had chased after so intensely that I exhausted myself. What a fool I had been.
Sometimes it seems as if I’ve done it all. I no longer have the strength of my youth. Everyone wanted to make me into what they thought I should be, not what I wanted to be. When I wouldn’t be what they desired they turned on me. They always had to have more. I gave them everything asking nothing in return; that is what I got.
Sometimes I wonder what it was I wanted. It must have been something.
In the days before I knew of the mystery I went to school eager to learn all I could from the great masters. In the pursuit of learning about the world, each day I obtained new knowledge and precious ideas.
When I heard of the mystery I quit school and scorned the masters. In the pursuit of the mystery, every day I dropped a little part of my knowledge and let go of each one of my precious ideas like dropping pearls one by one in the dust.
Though I know I will never attain great virtue, by gathering up a store of small virtues I may gradually pass and repass the boundary. Still, these branches of learning that are picked up in answering and replying, in advancing and receding, leave me lacking in essential wisdom. Even in mediocre work and study there is something worthwhile; but if I stay with these pursuits for too long a time there is a danger of them proving inapplicable. Therefore I do not practice this mode of behavior.
There are those who say not to associate with people who cannot be a blessing to me. I have heard it said these people will interfere with the path I walk, leading me down dark corridors. This is different from what I have learned. I honor the talented and the virtuous yet I bear with everyone. I praise the good and pity the incompetent. Since I have no great talents or virtues are there those who refuse to associate with me? What right do I have to pick and choose who is right and who is wrong?
For one word people are often taken for being wise; for one word people are often deemed to be foolish. Therefore I take much care in what I say. Without knowing the force of words it is impossible to know people.
Pursuing the mystery means less and less is said and done until non-action blossoms into being. When nothing is said and done, nothing is left unsaid and undone.
The world is ruled by allowing things to be as they are. The world isn’t what we think it is or proclaim it to be. It cannot be ruled by interfering.
That is the way of the mystery.