Chapter 26: Power of the Heavy
“Heavy is the root of light.
Still is the master of moving.
So wise souls make their daily march
with the heavy baggage wagon.
Only when safe
in a solid, quiet house
do they lay their cares aside.”
~ Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way, trans. Ursula K. Leguin (Shambhala, Boulder: 2019)
The Greek mathematician Archimedes posed the idea of what we today call “the view from nowhere”: a point from which we can see all, objectively, without our own perceptions warping the world. Descartes recast his idea into the form we most commonly encounter it today:
“Archimedes, that he might transport the entire globe from the place it occupied to another, demanded only a point that was firm and immovable; so, also, I shall be entitled to entertain the highest expectations, if I am fortunate enough to discover only one thing that is certain and indubitable.”
Mathematicians, philosophers, alchemists, and the everyday laborer alike have sought the fabled Archimedian point, the philosopher’s stone, the exit from the Matrix, the secret to offloading the mental and material baggage we lug around.
Today’s chapter might suggest a hardcore training program: pile your wagon with as much baggage as you can carry. Toil away all day so that you can rest at night. Work heavy, play light. But that is not the sense of the thing.
The “solid, quiet house” is not the reward at the end of the road, but what enables you to lift any load. The still point is the mind attuned to the baggage of the moment. Of course, at some point the limits of your physical strength assert themselves, but respect for the load will prevent injury and expand how much you can lift. But mentally, the text suggests that there is no limit to what the heartmind can carry and, indeed, the heavier the load, the lighter we can become. Our baggage is our best teacher. We try to drag it, but it drags us, kicking and screaming, until we realize that the heaviest thing—what Nietzsche called “the spirit of gravity”–is inside ourselves.
The Archimedian point is an ark, a vehicle, a mobile home that can carry anything. There is a reason that in Exodus, the Hebrews are told to build the ark of the covenant in the desert, and have to lug it around for forty years before they reach the Promised Land. Once you find your inner ark, you can lay your cares aside, and shoulder whatever load is before you.
New to the Dao Du Jour? Check out “Day 0.”