“The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understand that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.”
~ Stephen Mitchell (trans.), Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (New York: Harper Perennial), 2006.
When it comes to Fortune, Machiavelli is the Western yin to Lao-tzu’s yang.
“I certainly believe this: that it is better to be impetuous than cautious, because Fortune is a woman, and if you want to keep her under it is necessary to beat her and force her down. It is clear that she more often allows herself to be won over by impetuous men than by those who proceed coldly.
“Fortune is a…raging river, which floods the plains, sweeping away trees and buildings, bearing away the soil; everyone flees before it; all yield to its violence, and no one can resist it…”
For Machiavelli, Fortune is tantamount to Tiamat.
What separates the two thinkers is the desire to dominate it. Machiavelli believed that the will to conquer the world is part of human nature; Lao-tzu believed that the ability to conquer desire is the key to harmony with nature.
The great leader aims not to be feared or loved, but to be ignored. There is a reason the Biden presidency has come as a relief to so many: boring is a blessing.
But it would be a mistake to cast Trump as a Machiavellian success story. His great masterstroke was to seize to perceive and mercilessly exploit the GOP’s hollowness, rural America’s anger, and Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity in 2016. His great mistake was that he tried to Tweet his way around Tiamat in 2020. Fortune, in the form of the pandemic, carried him out to sea.
If he had done his job and stopped Tweeting, he would be president. And we would not be bored.
New to the Dao Du Jour? Check out “Day 0.”