Chapter 3: On the Futility of Contention
All arguments can be turned against themselves. Arguments are just games. Logic is a beautiful game - if you want to play it, play, but don’t think that this is life. All the rules of logic are just like the rules of playing cards: if you want to play a game of cards you have to follow the rules, but you know well that they are man-created; they are nowhere to be found in life. Nobody has ordained them to be so, they are mind-created, and if you want to play the game then you must accept the rules. If you don’t accept the rules you will be out of the game, because you cannot play it.
Logic is a game that scholars play. They go on arguing for centuries for nothing, because logic has not come to a single conclusion yet. For thousands of years they have been fighting, arguing, and people are waiting - some day they will come out with their findings, they may discover truth some day. They have not even found a single insight about truth, not even a glimpse, they will never find. Don’t wait any more - because logic has nothing to do with life. Life is illogical and if you become too logical you become closed to life. Then you move in a mental direction, not in an existential direction.
Lao Tzu is not logical, he is a very, very simple man, not a scholar at all. He is not a brahmin, not a pundit. He does not know anything about arguments. He has simply been watching life; he is a great watcher of life, a witness, a spectator. He has been moving, living with trees and the rivers and the clouds, and watching life and just trying to understand what life is without any pattern of his own to enforce on it. He has no system to enforce, he has nothing to enforce on life, he simply allows life. He opens his eyes, pure virgin eyes, without any contamination from logic, and simply looks at what is the case. And then he comes to find that life is a paradox.
If you don’t understand the paradox you will go on missing life. What he comes to find is that if you are too ambitious you will fail, because this is his observation: ambition always fails and fails totally. The more ambitious the man, the greater will be his failure. If you want to succeed you will finally be frustrated, nothing else. This seems to be illogical because if a man wants to succeed, he should succeed. That is logic. If a man wants success but fails, we can understand that if he was not doing things rightly that may have caused his failure, but Lao Tzu says that the idea of success itself is the cause of failure. If ten persons are making an effort to succeed in life, we can understand logically that a few will fail because they will not be able to cope, to fight, their intelligence may not be enough for their desire, their energy may not be enough and there is competition from others who have more intelligence and more energy and more gusto - they will succeed. So we say that a few will succeed who fulfill all the conditions to succeed and others will fail because they couldn’t fulfill the conditions. This is logical. But Lao Tzu says that all will fail, all will certainly fail, because the very idea of succeeding is the seed of failure.