Authority and Laxity

Continuing the translations of the incomplete manuscripts of the middle-years of Li-Dan‘s long life…


In the  morning of the last day he walked beneath the Yingke Pines, the Lord Māotóuyīng, Baronet of Wēishìjì, turned with purpose, yea even concern, to impart the wisdom of long life to his faithful squire, Li-Dan.

“Draw close, for what I say, I utter even as a whisper: Power, my dearest child, belongs to no one. It flows between, around, and through us.

Some in society, however, do hold–through privilege or institutional standing–a kind of authority.

The rigidity of such bearing masks the actor as containing power. Such people bind tightly to themselves all that success, accreditation, and standing can muster, wearing it as their raiment.

Such men and women are surrounded by others who hold nothing, others who are examples of laxity. Do you see? I mean, Li-Dan, that their hands are loose (holding no authority). The lax are a stark contrast to the rigid and by being nearby these unbending, the lax instantiate the privileges of those in authority.

Now hear this and comprehend: the one thing that the lax can never do is re-lax in the face of those who make claims to power.

Relaxation disturbs the norms of social standing. One who loses sight of his place is likely to do something rude like point out how the one in “power”, clad in the raiment of privilege, is actually wearing no clothes.

Because, again, my faithful squire, power belongs to no one.

In a moment of relaxation, something very true discloses something very false: for in that moment, the rigid find what happens when their whips snap back on them. The constrictors find what happens when their gifts of chains wrap them up instead.

In that moment of authentic relaxation, an authority–even the Jade Emperor himself–may suddenly second guess his words. A great general may find it a good idea to edit his thinking before speaking. A most high official, even a Baronet like myself, may trip up unable to say whatever is on his tongue.

And what then, dearest student?

Master, I think that the lax, as you are calling them, will no longer have reason to pay an authority heed.

Yes. Good. Little friend, I leave soon. You have been a boon in my last days. Make no mistake. But I must ensure that you full comprehend. For when I am returned to the Great Way, among my Ancestors, there will be none who will tolerate a librarian/scribe that acts as though he is himself a man of authority.

I understand, with sadness and with gratitude, dearest teacher.

Good. For you are grasping how I describe the topsy turvy world of speaking truth to power, of being a person who is frank in speech.

In a moment of complete letting-go and relaxation, the Seer who by social standards is the servant tells the Blind who by social standards are the masters how very wrongheaded they happen to be.

Such speech must never be done out of intellectual or moral superiority but out of a desire for the health of the whole.

Privilege and its dominating structures are a plague to every society. The follower of the Great Way cannot allow sickness to spread out further among the people striving under Heaven, cannot permit contagion to fly from the mouths of those few who happen to stand in authority.

The little master sat beneath his favorite tree on the chair Li-Dan kept there in the shade for him.

I am close to my time. I speak now, little brother, clear in my practice and my mind:  To be frank speech there must be danger for the Relaxed Person. That sounds counterintertuitive, I know.

But in that moment of relaxation, something must be up for sacrifice–the servant’s position, the good graces of a master, the respect or honor of those who will be shocked by your behavior, even… life itself when such an occurrence unfolds in the worst of circumstances.

At this point, the Relaxed must make a decision.

When an authority yanks chains in the name of guarding order, you will know to bear the neck & stop or to go on in spite of the chain & the consequences.

PIck the struggle well. There is no need to risk all over minor nit-picking. In a moment of weakness, the Relaxation might be a tempting respite. But the Greatness of our Humanity, like the Great Way itself, always returns. There is no need to rush it.

Li-Dan sat next to his master beneath the Yingke Pine until the moon rose brilliant. On the morrow, he prepared the ceremonies to return the Man to the Earth who would return him to Heaven which would return him to the Great Way.


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