“The Way is unimpeded harmony; its potential may never be fully realized”
(Note: In Cleary’s translation the final word in this phrase is “exploited”. Although I like this rendition, I prefer the word “realized” to “exploited”. The concept of exploitation does not compliment the basic ideology of the natural way. Or so I think. DH)
Unimpeded harmony is natural. That which hinders harmony is unnatural. There is much unnatural.
That which hinders harmony on a personal level is ego and trivial attachments. The concepts to which many are attached are unnatural. In turn, attachment to these concepts creates inner tension and stress. Tension and stress impede harmony. Our culture conditions us to crave acceptance and covet possessions. Attachment to such trivialities impedes our inner peace. Such is unnatural. Such is harmful. Such is not the natural way.
That which hinders harmony on a social level is pride and ego. Most every “personality conflict” boils down to pride and ego. People do not naturally dislike one another. To the contrary, people are for the most part naturally sociable beings. People who “dislike” one another likely pierce each other’s pride, and oftentimes over silly trivialities. A lack of harmony on a social level is unnatural and harmful to our inner peace. Such is not the natural way.
That which hinders harmony on a societal level is attachment to shallow and unnatural concepts. The assumption that folk of different colors and cultures are “different” is an untruth that only humankind would be silly enough to foster. That which differs is conditioned thinking. All folk are born alike, it is the process of social conditioning that impedes the harmony of the natural way. Social conditioning is unnatural and harmful. Social conditioning is not the natural way.
That which hinders harmony on a global level is a combination of that which hinders such on a personal, social, and societal level. Ulitimately, war is about conquest. Conquest is about attachment to silly trivialities such as possessions and power. So called patriotism is actually silly pride merely instilled on a collective level. Collective thinking is actually silly because collectiveness is unnatural. Preconceived notions of superiority and/or inferiority merely justifies acts and deeds which impede the harmony of the natural way.
The only reason that the full potential of the natural way will never be completely realized is unnatural thinking. Unnatural thinking is that which hinders the harmony of the natural way. There is much unnatural thinking. Such is not the natural way.
These are my thoughts on Tao Te Ching 4.1