By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.
Somewhere between the 7th and 4th century BC, a teacher named Lao Tzu was headed out of the city walls to meet his death in the desert. A guard at the gate could not convince him not to do so, but did manage to convince the teacher to delay long enough to write his teachings, which is today known as the Tao te Ching.
The Tao te Ching is considered in Eastern philosophy to be the “owner’s manual” for life. The Iching followed, used for prophesying, and considered to be the technical manual for the Tao te Ching. Within the Iching are sixty-four Iching hexagrams, but my favorite must be “Sun”.
The reading of the sun (which has more detail than I will present here) reads of the penetrating and permanence of gentle force. Much like the wind will wear down mountains, giving rise to regions such as the Badlands, the effect is permanent and lasting, but takes consistent pressure always in the same direction. It’s not as noticeable as changes made by force, like the violence that creates the mountains, but is more permanent.
There is an old saying, “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” This is not to be taken lightly. I personally believe that we can accomplish anything. We can make the world more loving, more tolerant, more open and honest. We can eradicate racism, social inequity, terrorism.
This sounds like a pipe dream, but it is the life I choose to live. The Freemasons believe that the way to change the world is by changing ourselves, and this is what I choose to do. I won’t see these changes in my lifetime, I know that. But I choose to model acceptance, I choose to model concern for others, I choose to model kindness. In so doing, maybe, just maybe, others will see this and decide that they like it, and emulate that behavior as well.
When this happens, I have begun to change the world.
Every once in a while, I will pay for somebody’s items in a grocery store. It’s just a little act of kindness I like to do, in the hopes that it will make somebody’s day. In making them a little bit happier, maybe their improved mood will be infectious enough to help somebody else have a day that’s a little bit brighter. And the propagation begins.
Once, after doing this, at work the next day, one of my work colleagues asked me if I ever pay for other people’s groceries. To tell the truth, I was shocked and admitted that, yes, on occasion I do. I asked him if he saw me doing so, to which he replied that he had not. However, somebody was telling him about this man at a grocery story that bought somebody else’s groceries for them. I had no idea that it was making any impact at all, although I had hoped it was. What a marvelous affirmation that people do, in fact, notice.
Are you ready? Do you want to change the world? I’ll tell you this; there are plenty of dark and evil people working to make it worse. We need more light in this world, and it can be you.
If you want to be a part of a positive change, the Iching goes on to give a piece of advice. It suggests that you choose a point to focus on. To make a difference, your gentle influence must be never wavering. The Iching suggests to follow a great example, a leader, a role model, an ideal. Be who you want people to be, behave the way you believe people should behave. I have a friend who, every Sunday, feeds the homeless. This is an example of a behavior that, frankly, I feel like I should emulate should I ever find a permanent home again. I don’t believe she is doing this in an effort to influence the behavior of others, but I can tell you that she does. I’m convinced that her focus comes from her church, but she doesn’t preach. She doesn’t quote biblical verses, and doesn’t suggest others to do the same as she does. She just lives the behavior that she believes in, and is influencing the world around her as she does so.
If you want to change the world, decide on the behavior you feel should be more common. If you can find a model of this behavior, so much the better, but just be that person. Live it. Believe it. When you stray from that path, think of what your role model or influencer would do to help you find the path again. And never waiver.
We can do this.