25 October 2016

Heaven on Earth - The Ideal Small Community of Love - DaoDeJing 80

What makes for heaven on earth? It is not the size, nor the wealth, nor the power of the community. It is a small community of love living in peace. This is how large country should be managed. Size should not undermine closeness. This is the ideal of Lao Zi in DaoDeJing 80.
DaoDeJing Chapter 80 Text and Translation

小国寡民,使有什伯之器而不用,
The small country with a little population, even though they have weapons they don't use them.

使民重死而不远徙,
Let the people value lives and relationship so that they don't have to go to far away places (to risk their lives to make a living.)

虽有舟舆,无所乘之;
Though they have boats and cars, they never use them. (Because they never need to - small country and don't travel overseas.)

虽有甲兵,无所陈之;
Though there are armors and weapons, they are not laid out.

使人复结绳而用之,
Let the people return to the time of tying ropes for record keeping. (Too easy to write like today's technology only cause us to write too much.)

甘其食、美其服、安其居、乐其俗,
Let them have tasty food, beautiful clothes, secured homes and joyful traditions.

邻国相望,鸡犬之声相闻,民至老死不相往来。
Neighboring countries are within view. The calls of roster and dogs can be heard. However, the people never have to interact during lifetimes. 

Small is Beautiful
The values of the present world are  "More" and "Growth". If we can't do it at home, we need to go overseas and to build global corporations. We measure the success by the size of its assets, the number of employees, and its worldwide presence. They don't think small can survive. Yet in the study of evolution, it is not size nor strength, but rather, it is adaptability that is needed for survival. In terms of adaptability, small is strength. Small means agility. Big corporate can only survive is their adaptability and agility can be like that of a small business. 

To Manage Big, divide it to be small.
This is the teaching of Lao Zi. If you cannot do the needful things that a small and stable community demands, you cannot scale up. It will only bring troubles and stress. Lao Zi in DaoDeJing chapter 60 says 治大国若烹小鲜 Managing large country is like cooking some small fish. Sun Zi in The Art of War Chapter 5 says 凡治众如治寡,分数是也;斗众如斗寡,形名是也;Managing large is like managing small, it all lies in dividing the numbers. Fighting with a large force is like fighting with a small force. It all lies on signals to enable communications. 

The Values of Lives
Lao Zi gives four basic values for living --- tasty food, beautiful clothes, secured home and joyful community traditions. These are like Maslow's lower three levels of physiological, safety, and belonging needs, and the higher ones of having happiness with people. There is also the level six needs of beauty and aesthetics. It does not have the 7th level of self-actualization and 8th level of transcendence. The highest level need is not of self but of community or joy of communal living.

Technology is No Guarantee for Happiness
More advanced weapons lead to greater destruction. The best is not to have the need to use them. More advanced technology in writing and other productivity only leads to greater waste of material production, pollution of the environment, greed and fighting for more. Even with the digital connection, our lives cannot be freed anymore. There are the constant interrupts from Whatsapp, FaceBook, eMails, and phone calls. Writing is so easy that people then write without thinking and we all suffer from information overload. We have so much productivity that gives us so much free time that we need to kill them! Lao Zi does not think technology is a solution for happiness. What use is there for a long life if we does not know to live happily in them? We must fix the basic problems of our values and then technology can then be managed and put to good use to enhance health and life.

The VUCAD World of Stress and Change
What is the cause of our present VUCAD (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, and deceptive) world? It is because we are connecting a diversified world together. Unless we know the values and the means to achieve harmony (synergy of diversities and not uniformity. It is appreciating and valuing the differences and not merely tolerating), connecting together will only bring forth greater conflicts, where one race or religion insist on overcoming and dominating or eliminating others. If we can't learn how to live with others that are different from us, it is better that we separate.

Hope you have a good understanding of Lao Zi's small world that is not small at all!

Lim Liat (c) 25 Oct 2016

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