The Philosophy of Heaven and Earth
Laozi said that drums make sound because they don't muffle sound, and mirrors reflect light because they don't absorb light. Bells make sound but don't ring till they're struck, and flutes make music but not till they're played. So the wise are responsible and don't play any tunes. When there's work to do, they get it done. When something happens, they respond.
The universe is in constant motion. Ancient because every ending is a new beginning, vast because it circles back to where it started, flawless because it moves indivisibly as one.
When energy rains down from the heavens, energy rises up from the earth. Yin and yang flow and mix and life is fair and balanced. Good people are in charge and tyranny withers and dies. That's the Dao of heaven and earth.
When energy doesn't rain down from the heavens, energy doesn't rise up from the earth. Yin and yang don't mix and life is desperate. Tyrants gain power and good people get killed. Crops don't grow and Dao De compensates.
Dao of the heavens eases pressure and fills empty space. Dao of earth erodes the heights and fills the hollows. Dao of gods frightens the comfortable and helps the oppressed. Dao of man hoards and doesn't help. Dao of the wise is humble but nothing could be higher.
Every corner is lit when the sky is bright and the sun shines. The middle realm is at peace when the sovereign is enlightened and ministers shine. The realm can grow and last when it has all four lights to enlighten those who shine the light, to enlighten their progress.
Universal Dao makes the laws and earth Dao obeys them. Unity balances them and time connects them. Life is mature when it recognizes Dao. Great Dao is wide and easy. If we leave it behind, it's not far. We manifest its character when we cultivate it within. We sustain its character when we practice it with others.
The heavens protect life. They make us moral and provide for us. Our souls return to them because they help and don't harm. Helping and not harming builds character, so that's how to be moral.
There's nothing above the heavens nor beneath the waters. Sky above, water below, the wise imitate them. Society is stable when we channel their respect and humility.
The earth supports life and disciplines us. Our bodies return to it because it gives and takes. Give and take is low character, and the least moral don't escape morality, so that's how to be immoral.
The earth is stable and calm because it embodies the heavens. Life forms when the earth is stable and calm, and life gathers when the earth is generous and rich. Stable and calm, it's never unreasonable. Generous and rich, it's never intolerant.
When earth power is rich enough, fresh water joins the gathering. Earth Dao can grow and last because it's predictable and generous. The wise imitate it. They're moral, never intolerant.
Yin resists yang and life prospers. Yang accepts yin and everything settles down. When something is prosperous, it's never ungrateful. When it settles down, it's never unhappy. When it's happy, it's never upset.
When yin destroys, yang adapts. Yin advances, yang retreats. Tyrants gain power and good people escape unharmed. That's universal Dao.
Positive energy motivates everything to settle down and take its place, so the wise follow yang Dao. When we follow something, it follows us, and when we resist something, it resists us, and that's why we can't forget its true nature.
Rice patties fill when the rhythm of life matures, and canals drain when life has no rhyme or reason. That's why societies collapse when the rains don't come.
Yang is lord of life because it rises up and comes back down. It can find its way back to where it started because it doesn't last long. It can grow and last because it returns to where it began. It's the mother of civilization because it can last so long.
We can give again and again when we limit positive energy, and we can change over and over when we collect negative energy. But nothing can ever change without limits and potential, and that's why the wise are careful about what collects.
Life thrives when yang eliminates yin, and life struggles when yin extinguishes yang. That's why life gets better when the powerful promote yang Dao, and civilizations die when yin Dao prevails.
Life is immature when yang doesn't defer to yin, and moral change doesn't come when sovereigns don't defer to ministers. That's why reforms are enlightened when sovereigns defer. They're blind and deaf when they don't.
Life teems and multiplies when the sun rises, and Dao De shines when good leaders are in charge. Life stops and rests when the sun sets, and everything runs and hides when tyrants rule.
Life stirs to the sound of thunder, and life blossoms in the patter of rain. The influence of a great leader is something like this. Yin and yang motivate us to take their rhythm, and great leaders keep us from losing the beat.
Everything gets nervous when thunder shakes the earth, and branches fall when the wind sways the trees. People behave because they're civilized and because great leaders help them let go of anger and be good. Most people don't like conflict and welcome the relief.
When the winds don't blow, fires don't rise, and great leaders are silent so there's nothing for troublemakers to criticize. When fires start, they need fuel, so when great leaders speak, they stick to the facts. What could go wrong when they're sincere and tell the truth?
Rivers swell with debris from the hills, mountaintops sink to the sea. Extra positive energy comes back as yin, and extra negative energy comes back as yang. That's why they don't make promises or exaggerate, and it's why they say it's a good idea not to express frustration or show anger.
Water flows down when flames rise up, and the way of the wise helps us cooperate. Society is harmonious and balanced when the wise are a positive influence. Civilizations sink and drown in negativity.