Stop! No! What am I hearing and seeing? Unbelievable! Dismayed, disgusted and despairing, I find I’m talking to myself a lot. What I understand as civility, respect, and common decency toward another are spiraling down into foul, ugly places that surprise me awake. The latest, confused and deeply disturbing upheavals, the rise of fear with two of its most destructive arms, anger and violence, plus the lack of healing rhetoric, initiative and influence from leaders across our nation are propelling us into the middle of a perfect storm of chaos.
Because of my work, discerning how grief and grace live side by side in each of us, the concept of chaos is both intriguing and important to me. I did some research. Chaos is much more than swirling and fear-filled disorder. Within its disorder lies the rich, real potential of creation and change. Author Deepak Chopra defines chaos as a place of infinite possibilities. Just imagine – out of the roiling darkness of hateful deeds and inconceivably disparate ideas comes the promise of something new, something altered, and, yes, something beautiful. It gives me some peace, encouraged that our today’s sadness, frustrated anger and disgust, our shared turmoil, can be the catalyst for our tomorrow’s hope-filled and healing change.
I’m a believer that the right questions can unearth important and life-altering answers. With hope, I put my questions out into the chaos: What am I to learn from what’s happening? How do I use what I understand to make a difference for the good?
Then, one morning, just a few days ago, I found myself gravitating toward Laozi’s, Tao Te Ching, the Book of The Way. Legend has it that author, Laozi (Lao-Tzu), a Chinese prophet, was urged to record his teachings in the midst of a time when his homeland was steeped in the ongoing chaos of war. Laozi’s poetic, prophetic words became a Chinese classic text of only 5,000 characters, collected into 81 verses. His Tao Te Ching is today considered across cultures as a valuable resource for achieving a balanced life of integrity, joy and peace.
As I was leafing through my book of his collected words, it fell open to Verse 27. The following words began an answer to my questions:
“ . . . the Master is available to all people and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.
What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this, you will get lost no matter how intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.”
I believe I’m to understand that the great secret lies in Laozi’s questions – every good person’s job is to be a bad person’s teacher. If I consider myself “good,” then I have a job to do: to teach – by rejecting no one, by embodying the light of love and goodness, by respecting all other teachers and caring for all our students, and by staying available, with something besides disapproval and outrage, to bring light and potential to others, especially those I define as “bad.”
This answer feels naïve, even overwhelming, in the face of the enormity of pain, confusion and fear with which we’re all being confronted now, but I’m committed to trying. I have to believe that single individuals make a difference, that every good act results in an ongoing, positive reaction, so I’ll hang in with this answer.
May your questions in the midst of chaos receive gentle and life-affirming answers. And may you find encouragement in the grace and hope of these words by Desmond Tutu:
Goodness is stronger than evil
Love is stronger than hate
Light is stronger than darkness
Life is stronger than death