Daily Tao / 320 – Poor


Chopsticks made from bamboo —
Too poor to afford silverware.
Tender bamboo shoots for food —
Too poor to afford meat.

Why were people of old so integrated with their surroundings? Because the objects that they used, the food that they ate, and the activities that they engaged in were straight from their surroundings. They used sticks made from bamboo as eating implements. They used vines to make baskets. They used gourds as vessels. For food, they grew plants, domesticated animals, and caught fish and game. Their social structure was built around the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. Newborn babies were washed with the waters of the nearest stream. The dead were buried in the same earth that provided sustenance.

Now our food is imported from distant places and elaborately processed. We have no idea where objects we purchase come from, thinking that their presence and convenience is all that is necessary. We have means of transport that can bring us to places faster than our minds can adjust. We abuse our wealth and use it to insulate ourselves from our surroundings.

That’s why being of modest means is not necessarily bad. When one is poor, one is forced to use what is at hand. It is Tao that brings us these things. The closer we can be to the earth and to nature, the more integrated with life we shall be. Followers of Tao never complain about feeling alienated from life : They have no choice. Their every action keeps them synchronized with the movement of Tao.