THE TAO OF LIFE AND DEATH
Be the One
“Coming into life, entering death
The followers of life, three in ten
The followers of death, three in ten
Those whose lives are moved toward death
Also three and ten
Why? Because they live lives of excess
I have heard of those who are good at cultivating life” …
Excerpt from Chapter 50, Verse 1 – 7, Tao Te Ching
The world’s biggest killer is ischemic heart disease, responsible for 16% of the world’s total deaths. Since 2000, the largest increase in deaths has been for this disease, rising by more than 2 million to 8.9 million deaths in 2019. Stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the 2nd and 3rd leading causes of death, responsible for approximately 11% and 6% of total deaths respectively. WHO (World Health Organization)
In the verses listed above, Lao Tzu is sharing his observation that nine out of ten people are not good at cultivating longevity or not good at cultivating life. All are fear driven. The first two are reactionary due to fear.
In verse two, “followers of life” are three in ten people who live a fear-based life. Their default is to retreat into safety. Their fear reaction is to avoid anything that may be unsafe or unpleasant. These are people who fear death and are so reserved and careful they become weak from avoiding the challenges that make us stronger. These are people who avoid getting dirty or taking a risk or facing a necessary challenge to get ahead and become stronger. They are too conservative.
Examples might be people who never get dirty, and are vulnerable to bacteria and pathogens that they might normally have a natural immunity to. They lived secluded lives only grudgingly interacting with other people, never being exposed to germs that can build up a strong immunity, they never take chances and are afraid to take advantage of opportunity when it shows up. They are afraid of change and new ideas, so their knowledge is limited. They survive but die off easily. Because they never did the things that could make them strong. They endure but never seem to get ahead, afraid to experience what all life has to offer.
In verse three the next three are those who are “followers of death”. Opposite to followers of life, followers of death are risk takers. Their fear reaction is to be reckless with an intent to prove to themselves that they are not filled with fear, so they are compelled to take unnecessary chances. Perhaps they desire attention so that show off taking dangerous actions to people will admire their bravery. Taking risky chances too many times leads to loss, injury, and death.
In verse four, “those whose lives are moved toward death” Lao Tzu is talking about a fear reaction of overindulgence. They worry about not having enough time to experience all there is. Their mindset that death is stalking them at every turn and that time is running out leads to a feeling that death will soon show up to take everything away from them, so they live it up to excess. A life of overindulgence is one of self-destruction including chronic disease, financial hardship, and depletion of resources including life itself. They are overweight, don’t get enough sleep, too busy indulging to exercise to remain healthy. Their perspective becomes a self-fulfilling destiny of suffering and early death.
Finally, in verse seven, Lao Tzu tells us “I have heard of those who are good at cultivating life”. The first three groups who are dominated by fear, a total of nine out of ten people which leaves ‘the one who is successful at life, which is the way of Longevity.
This person is the one Lao Tzu says, “are good at cultivating life”. Cultivating life is cultivating longevity. Free of fear reactions and being self-aware, they consciously make lifestyle choices that promote harmony and balance both internally and externally. They understand the power of moderation as a means of staying on the true path. They face challenges with wisdom and succeed because they can deal with life’s challenges in such a way that it becomes a benefit to their endurance.
Being “the one” means to be the Sovereign. Awake, aware, and controlling strong emotions, desire, and the ego so that they consistently make wise choices that sustain their well-being. Sovereignty provides the spiritual discipline to reign in and controls the ego which is what drives the choices of the nine in ten.
Inspiringly, there are communities where the nine in ten number is reduced to a much lower ratio. Dan Buettner’s book on “Blue Zones” gives detail on how the communities have cultivated a society of longevity with many Centenarians living long happy lives.
If you are serious about cultivating Longevity, then you must begin right away by examining your life and where you are today. Consider how you may be exhibiting fearful reactions that lead to self-destruction and suffering. Think about how your choices have played a role in your destiny. Looking forward to thinking of goals, considering what lifestyle choices you must let go of and ones you must embrace to endure for the long haul. Are you sometimes portraying fearful reactions that lead to disharmony? The Tao lessons in this book are intended to help you become the one “who is good at cultivating life”. That is the Tao of Longevity.