“Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.”
~ Stephen Mitchell (trans.), Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (New York: Harper Perennial), 2006.
From the standpoint of the cynicism that passes for wisdom that we call common sense, “loving your enemy” and “turning the other cheek” seem naïve and foolish. What could be more intuitive than opposing evil with good?
But from the Daoist point of view, good and evil are points of view that generate and reinforce one another. Like Buddhism, Daoism tends to see “evil” as a product of delusional states of mind, and the most important form of evil you contend with is in yourself. So long as you deny or repress your dark side, you will project it onto other people, or malevolent forces, outside of yourself, and you will more and more identify as a good soldier fighting the good fight. Paradoxically, you are not possessed by demonic spirits, but by your own perceived “goodness.”
But facing your inner demons, confronting your shadow—running toward the monsters under the bed of consciousness—helps you see its other half—and yours. And then when you look outward, you will not see evil people, or enemies, but split human beings, divine animals like yourself doing the best they can. And then you can work with them, and they will be willing to work with you, because you are no longer projecting your shadow onto them. The “mutually assured projection” that dominates much of our social life is not even a zero-sum game; it’s a tragedy of the commons where we all end up worse by pursuing our perceived self-interest. We pursue it poorly because we are confused about who we are.
If you do not give evil the resistance it expects, it will fall forward onto the ground before you, and you will see its backside. And it will be afraid, because the front it was projecting will be revealed precisely as a front.
But one of you has to go first.
New to the Dao Du Jour? Check out “Day 0.”