Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Thoughts on the Tao Te Ching 79

Poem 79

Failure is an opportunity.

If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame.

Therefore the Master
fulfills her own obligations
and corrects her own mistakes.
She does what she needs to do
and demands nothing of others.


A common list of the failures of Abraham Lincoln (along with a few successes) is:

  • 1831 - Lost his job
  • 1832 - Defeated in run for Illinois State Legislature
  • 1833 - Failed in business
  • 1834 - Elected to Illinois State Legislature (success)
  • 1835 - Sweetheart died
  • 1836 - Had nervous breakdown
  • 1838 - Defeated in run for Illinois House Speaker
  • 1843 - Defeated in run for nomination for U.S. Congress
  • 1846 - Elected to Congress (success)
  • 1848 - Lost re-nomination
  • 1849 - Rejected for land officer position
  • 1854 - Defeated in run for U.S. Senate
  • 1856 - Defeated in run for nomination for Vice President
  • 1858 - Again defeated in run for U.S. Senate
  • 1860 - Elected President (success)
And all the failures enumerated above were preludes to his eventual success upon being elected President of America  in 1860.  Indeed, perseverance, no matter how much or how many times you fail will generally result in success at last.  Therefore, giving up or giving in is the one sure way to fail.  One can only delight in the positivity of the sentiments of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the incandescent light bulb who quipped that he "had not failed," but that he had found "10,000 ways that didn't work." There is also a great sense of humour, determination and persistence in what he said here.  Or again take the quotation from the great business man Henry Ford: "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing."  Our present Taoist poet states something similar in his/her contention that failure is an opportunity.  There is no one to blame not even oneself.  One just has to accept things as they are and work optimistically from there.

Another piece of wisdom that my father always quoted about failure or failing is the one which avers that "the person who never made a mistake never made anything."

There is very little more that one can add by way of teasing out the thoughts in this poem as it is very clear. However, perhaps a line or a phrase above resonates or strikes a chord in your heart and might serve as a mantra for a few minutes meditation.


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