Tao Te Ching Verse 80: Accessing the Utopia Within

Tao Te Ching Verse 80

translated by Hua-Ching Ni

Let there be small communities with few inhabitants.
The supply of vessels may be more than enough,
yet no one would use them.
The inhabitants would love living there so dearly that they would never wish to move to
another place.
They may have every kind of vehicle,
but they would not bother to ride them.
They may have powerful weapons,
but they would not resort to using them.
They would return to a simple system of cords and knots to record their simple events,
as was done in ancient times.
They would be content with plain food,
pleased with simple clothing,
satisfied with rustic but cozy homes,
and would cling to their natural way of life.
The neighboring country would be so close at hand that one could hear its roosters crowing
and its dogs barking along the boundaries.
But, to the end of their days, people would rarely trespass the territory of another's life.

Photo by Johnny Cohen on Unsplash

Utopia On the Surface

My experience with this verse has been unexpectedly beautiful. 

In this verse, he outlines utopia:

  • Abundance 
  • Harmony in the Community
  • Ability to Travel and Defend but no need for either of those things
  • Simplicity in Knowledge Management
  • Comfortable lifestyle
  • Peace with the Neighbors

So as I’m reading it and reflecting, knowing everything that I’ve learned and practiced so far, I can see that the utopia is actually possible!  

There have been two times when I’ve witnessed this, and I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I knew things were different.  I’ll tell you about one of them.

In one of my trainings in the Army, I was in what we’d call a squad - about 8 of us in a small group.  We were to train, eat, and sleep together for about 35 days.  Some of my comrades would have forgotten an item or two, and just me - I would offer what I had blindly.  Now someone might say that was a little dumb of me - you know, like I should have given of my overflow, not my cup, right?  But naive as I was, I did it.  I did that for a week or two, and I noticed that the others started doing the same.  Soon, we were a functioning little family unit, and we looked out for each other and our needs.  It became normal.  Some time later, maybe about 3 weeks, one of our cadre remarked that there wasn’t any infighting in our group like the other squads.  They wondered what it was.  At that moment, I knew.  And it wasn’t like I could have said anything about it - there was no way I could have said that I was the cause in the beginning.  It was one of those subtle things that folks weren’t even paying attention to, to include myself!  But I knew it. 

As I’m considering that experience with that group and reading this verse today, I’m thinking about at least observing how my journey with the Tao has affected my relationships since I started.  At home, I have enjoyed a deeper connection with my spouse as I grow with her and we share spiritual insights.  At work, I have opened up to more ways to be of service, and interesting opportunities have presented themselves.  With friends, I have practiced humility and have met some people that have had profound impacts on my life - and statistically, it seems pretty much impossible that that would have occurred had I gone out searching for them in a deliberate manner.

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