According to Lao-tse, the harmony between heaven and earth was accessible to anyone at any time, but not by following a particular set of rules, as Confucius had proposed. In his famous Tao Te Ching, or “Tao Virtue Book,” he submits that earth’s laws are a perfect reflection of heaven’s, and that they guide us better than man’s law can. Lao-tse believed that the more people tamper and disrupt with the balance that earth’s and heaven’s universal laws create, the more harmony will fade from our midst. The problems come when we try to force things.
The word “Tao” literally means “the Way.” It’s the pattern behind everything in heaven and on earth. Lao-tse saw the earth not as filled with opportunities for pain but teeming with opportunities to learn. The Way cannot be fully captured in words, but it can be understood. That is why the well-trained ability to abstract is sometimes more of a barrier to understanding than an aid. It is also why experiencing the world in front of you is highly prized by the Taoist.
Three distinct flavors of Taoism have percolated over the centuries following its founding, but what unites them is the appreciation of and working with whatever Life happens to send one’s way. The inevitable outcome of living in harmony with the Way is enduring happiness. The hallmarks of the Taoist personality are a joyful serenity imbued with light-hearted humor. Sourness and bitterness mark the person intent on making Life something other than what it is.