When the San Bernardino police chief announced that 14 people were dead in today’s mass shooting, I must admit that I burst into tears. Ever since the massacre in Paris on November 13, I have been trying to collect myself by reading the Daoist Wenzi. He’s not quite as poetic as Laozi, but he has his moments. #52 in Thomas Cleary’s translation advises:
You cannot cause calamity not to occur, but trust in yourself not to beckon it. You cannot cause fortune to arrive, but trust in yourself not to reject it.
When a time is going to arrive, you cannot go out to greet it and bring it to you; when time is going to leave, you cannot stop and pull it back.
When the world is orderly, one protects oneself by justice, and when the world is disorderly one protects justice by oneself.
#62 expands on this notion of how to be oneself in a world of chaos:
To use a lifetime of years that can be counted to worry about all the disorder under heaven is like weeping in order to put more water in a river for fear it will dry up. Those who do not fret about all the disorder under heaven are happy because they govern themselves and take part in talking about the path to follow.
Because of all the resources on the internet, I can find the Chinese text for Wenzi and use online dictionaries to check on translations, even though I hardly know any Chinese. Because Cleary’s translation of #62 seemed a bit awkward to me, I spent a good part of last night and today working on the one presented above. This time studying how to express the Dáo provided some peace on a terrible day.
I don’t know what to think or feel anymore. Your response is to try to make some sense of it, to respond somehow. I will be honest, when I see the shootings, on the same NY Times front page as ocean island nations drowning, I think, “we have brought this upon ourselves.” There is this saying, “if we don’t change direction soon, we will get where we are going.” I feel we are here already. I’m not proud of my reaction; it seems un-enlightened to me, but that is how I feel now.