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Chapter 9: On Calm and Quietude

Lao Tzu says on calm quietude:

The highest perfection is like imperfection,
And its use is never impaired.
The greatest abundance seems meagre,
And its use will never fail.
What is most straight appears devious,
The greatest skill appears like clumsiness,
The greatest eloquence seems like stuttering.
Movement overcomes cold,
(But) keeping still overcomes heat
Who is calm and quiet becomes the guide for the universe.

Man is blind, though he has perfect eyes. Man is deaf, not that he has not got ears. Man is dead, although fully alive. There is a seeing and seeing. There is a listening and listening. There is a life and life - and they differ, they differ tremendously.

Eyes can see but eyes cannot understand and if you don’t understand of what use is the seeing? Ears can hear but unless ears are also attentive to what they hear they will not be capable of listening. You are alive, but if you have not penetrated to your innermost core of being or non-being your life is going to remain only on the surface. You will never know, you will never come to an understanding of the tremendous energy phenomenon that you were. You will die without being aware of what life was.

If you live in such a way that the eyes see and yet do not see, that the ears hear and yet do not hear, that the heart throbs and yet remains like a rock, you are alive in the physiological sense of the word, medically you are alive - but not existentially. Then what happens? Then all your understanding is like misunderstanding. Then it would have been better that you had had no eyes: at least you would not have forgotten the fact that you are blind, at least you would have known that you cannot see, at least there would have been no possibility of misunderstanding.

Better it would have been that you had had no ears. Better it would have been that you were not alive but really dead; at least there would have been some reality in it. A really dead person is at least really dead but an “unreally” alive person is not really alive, he is in a limbo, neither alive nor dead. He drags, he doesn’t exist, he has no inner dimension. He moves on the periphery without ever coming in touch with the center.

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