Let go or be dragged

Let go or be dragged. ~ Zen Proverb

Just let it go

I expected tonight to be a difficult sleep. Unfortunately, I was not disappointed in that expectation.

Yesterday I made a mistake at work. A bad one. Nothing that couldn’t be repaired, but the repair took time and put an entire film production on hold while that repair was made. A fairly bad mistake in the film biz, and one easily avoided with a little more attention to detail, and being more attentive to a fundamental step in my job.

So, a learning experience. Learn, and move on.

But I tend more to learn and hold on. The holding on tends to stand in the way of learning. So, this morning in my sleeplessness, I look to The Dao for insight, and find two chapters which speak to me.

It’s time to prepare for another day’s work, so perhaps I’ll dig into these passages a little deeper later. For now, I’ll just note that when Laozi says, “do your job” it is without pre-judging how well you do that job. And so, whether you’ve done your job well, or poorly, once it is complete, move on. Let go.

From the Daoist perspective, it is as bad to hold onto a job well done as one that fell short. But, from my perspective, I have to work primarily on a tendency to hold onto the mistakes and poorly completed tasks, displacing in my knowledge of self all the good work I do. One mistake can, for me, erase an entire day’s excellence. I am left, at the end of the day, with an error in my self-perception.

Holding onto the errors, I am distracted from the Dao, making more errors inevitable. I drag myself down.
He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can’t empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.

~ Laozi, Dao de Jing, Chapter 24
  Stephen Mitchell, translator
Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
doesn’t try to force issues
or defeat enemies by force of arms.
For every force there is a counterforce.
Violence, even well intentioned,
always rebounds upon oneself.

The Master does his job
and then stops.
He understands that the universe
is forever out of control,
and that trying to dominate events
goes against the current of the Tao.
Because he believes in himself,
he doesn’t try to convince others.
Because he is content with himself,
he doesn’t need others’ approval.
Because he accepts himself,
the whole world accepts him.

~ Laozi, Dao de Jing, Chapter 30
  Stephen Mitchell, translator
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