“Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.” What does this mean, “loving the world?” Lao Tse writes, then tells us, “accept disgrace willingly,” and “accept being unimportant.” Would we exploit other people if we followed this advice? How would we relate to the world around us, if we weren’t intent on our own “right” to it? This can lead into all kinds of thought about government and company policies, city planning, and other “what about them” concerns. What about us?
Why would we be, “loving the world as (our) own self?” We’re part of it, and it is part of us. A fish lives in the water, and draws its life from it. A bird flies in the air, and breathes the same air. We live by the world, in the world, and from the world. The very life of this world is the life of the Tao, which guides and sustains it. In an old story a poor man found a goose which laid golden eggs. With the gold he could have paid his debts and cared for his needs. Instead, he cut the bird open to have all the gold at once. There was no gold, of course, but only a dead goose on the table. If he had loved that one part of the world as himself he would have been a very rich man.
What is our world? What does it mean to love it in such a way? We have air to breathe, but is that all? Don’t we breathe in the relationships and culture around us as well? We have water to drink, from a pure source. Do we forget the water of life-wisdom which flows to us from the sages of old? We live by the fruits of the earth. What is the ground from which we ourselves grow? Do we demand life, or live in the Tao?
If we are not part of the bigger picture, then we have no place in it. Do we exploit, or participate? If we accept not being the master, of our world, then we can begin finding our place in it. Only then do we have the humility to love.