Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stopping Gaps

Things have natural courses; events have combinations and divisions. There is that which is near but cannot be seen; there is that which is remote and yet can be known. The near at hand is unseen when you do not examine what is said; the remoter can be known when you question the past to discern the future.

A gap is an opening; an opening is a space between barriers; a space between barriers makes for tremendous vulnerability. At the first sign of a gap, it should be shored up, or repelled, or stopped, or hidden, or overwhelmed. These are the principles of stopping gaps.

When things are perilous, sages know it, and preserve themselves in solitude. they explain things according to developments, and thoroughly master strategy, whereby they discern the subtle. Starting from the slightest beginnings they work against tremendous odds. What they provide to the outside world, strategies for nipping problems in the bud, all depends upon stopping gaps. Stopping gaps is an application of the Way.

When the land is in confusion, there is no enlightened leadership above, and the public officials have no real virtue. Then petty people slander and despoil, wise people are not employed, and sages go into hiding. Greedy connivers go into action, rulers and ministers confuse each other, fall out with each other and attack each other. Parents and children separate, and there is rebellion and antagonism. These are called budding gaps.

When sages see budding gaps, they plug them up with laws. If society can thereby be ordered, then they stop up the gaps. If it is unruly, they overwhelm them. Sometimes they attack the problem in one way, sometimes another: sometimes they attack in such a way as to effect a restoration, sometimes they attack in such a way as to effect an overthrow.

Ever since there has been the cyclic process of combination and separation of heaven and earth, there have always been gaps. It is imperative to see into them. The purpose of seeing into them is to be able to open and close them. One who can apply this principle is a sage.

Sages are servants of heaven and earth: if society is in an irremediable state, they hide deeply and await the right time to act. In a time when something can be done, they plan for it. They can accord with the higher, they can regulate the lower; able to follow, able to conform, they are guardian spirits of heaven and earth.

~Thunder In The Sky, translated by Thomas Cleary/Shambhala Pub.~

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