Chapter 8 of the Tao Te Ching, as translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, reads thus:
The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things and does not strive.
It flows in places men reject and so is like the Tao.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart.
In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
In speech, be true.
In ruling, be just.
In business, be competent.
In action, watch the timing.
No fight: No blame.
I think this is one of the most beautiful, simple yet profound things I’ve ever read, and if I had to issue one memo of wisdom to the world (or, if I were being high-tech, if I were to tweet one message across the globe), this would probably be it.
I had such an eye-opening experience yesterday which showed me how I am still so quick to assign blame and swell with righteous anger, even though I abhor the idea in theory.
Some background: kids are mischievous. The kids in our neighborhood are normal in that respect. There have been scooters “borrowed” and abandoned in far away places, big wheels trashed, balls purposely thrown into the woods, cars egged, etc.
So yesterday I was returning from a quick errand, and as I’m turning off the main road and onto the little road that goes through our neighborhood, I see the metal box that we keep our sidewalk chalk in, and it’s laying on its side just at the intersection of the white line on the edge of the main road and the line that would divide the middle of the little road, and the chalk is strewn.
My first thought… What little punk did this?
I pull over the van, retrieve the box and chalk, ready to drive through the neighborhood and interrogate every kid I see. Why would someone do such an annoyingly mean thing? That’s the last time I let anyone play with our chalk… or anything else for that matter…
As I’m driving, and luckily not encountering any kids, I remember how we were outside earlier, me and my friend and our four little ones. I remember how my 2 year old was carrying around the box of chalk around the driveway, occasionally stopping to scribble something.
I remember how the van’s back bumper is wide and flat for stepping on to put stuff on the roof.
I remember how my 2 year old loves to put stuff on the bumper, despite my pleas for her not to.
My imagination re-members, connects, puts back into place the pieces of the truth, which is that a few minutes ago I drove out of the neighborhood slowly, then accelerated onto the main road, which would have caused the box to slip off the bumper in the exact spot I found it.
In a second I go from arrogantly angry to humbly grateful that no one ran over the metal box with its sharp corners, which could certainly have done some damage to their tires, at least.
The fault was mine, and it was an innocent mistake, but I was so ready to assign not only blame but a malicious intent to someone else.
How often to we approach a situation with an angry heart and a judgmental attitude, when we truly don’t know what’s going on?
No fight: No blame.
We can at least start there, right?