Toon-Te-Ching: Verse 4

Welcome to this week’s installment of the Toon-Te-Ching.  Each week we are taking one of the 81 verses of the Tao-Te-Ching, pairing it with a toon and connecting the teaching to our work life.

4th Verse

The Tao is empty

but inexhaustible,

bottomless,

The ancestor of it all.

Within it, the sharp edges become smooth;

the twisted knots loosen;

the sun is softened by a cloud;

the dust settles into place.

It is hidden but always present.

I do not know who gave birth to it.

It seems to be the common ancestor of all, the father of things.

Collective Consciousness.  In this verse, Lao-Tzu appears to be referring to our collective consciousness and collective wisdom.  In today’s workplace, we are hyper-focused on the individual. “Are you carrying your weight?” “Are you performing highly enough?”  “Do you know enough?” It’s exhausting. This verse refers to the “Tao, which is inexhaustible”. While I believe he means that it can’t be used up, it also means that it won’t be tired out.  If we relate that to our collective wisdom and power, by working as a team instead of individuals we can alleviate the stress of today’s workplace while creating amazing results.

How often to do truly act as a collective as work?  Often times teams are simply a collection of coordinated individuals.  Has your team ever come up with an idea and you weren’t quite sure who exactly thought of it?  When ideas belong to the group, instead of belonging to a single person, the group gets energized.  What if we were to truly act as one?

It’s all Good.  The second stanza suggests that when we let go, a peacefulness falls over us.  Sort of a hippie/surfer “it’s all good, man.” And I can hear the skeptics shouting, for I used to be one of them, they say “we have a big problem and it won’t solve itself!” “our competitors are eating our lunch, we can’t just sit by and do nothing!”  No one is suggesting you do nothing, what the verse is suggesting is that by trusting your instinct and not overthinking it, you will find a simple answer. And if there is no answer, life will go on.

Brain Twist:  What do you take from today’s Toon-Te-Ching?  Can you tap into the collective consciousness of your team today?  What could happen if you give voice to what the group is already thinking?