Over-Doing Is Not The Way

According to CNN:

”The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced that former cyclist Lance Armstrong's file will reveal that Armstrong was part of the most sophisticated and successful doping program ever, reports the New York Times . . . .'The U.S.P.S. Team doping conspiracy was professional designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices,' the agency said. 'A program organized by individuals who thought they were above the rules and who still play a major and active role in sports today.'"

I am not here to debate Armstrong's innocence or guilt, but to use his case as an illustration to explain Lao Tzu's wisdom of "under-doing."

Tzu is the author of Tao Te Ching, a classic of Chinese wisdom literature, one of the most translated books in human history, perhaps second or third after the Bible. The book, written more than 2,600 years ago, is a beautiful collection of Chinese wisdom poetry. The language is simple and concise, and the wisdom is profound and intriguing.

Lao Tzu's eternal wisdom has these major components:

No ego-self

No expectation

No judgment

Living in the present



Having no ego-self or separate-self is the essence of Lao Tzu's wisdom. As a matter of fact, all the components are inter-connected, but no ego-self is the focal point of all.

Living in this contemporary world. we all strive to create an identity, a separate-self. We all want to be different from others, and that is why we all have a name-or more precisely, we want to distinguish ourselves from others.

An ego-self is the beginning of pride, which is the first of the Seven Deadly Sins, and the cause of the fall of man. With an ego-self, we begin to set goals in our lives to define our identities, to distinguish us from others. Once the goals are set, we expect to meet them, as well as to meet the expectations from others around us.

With expectations, we tend to judge. Judgment means choosing what we want and rejecting what we do not want; we begin to like and dislike, because we want to accomplish our goals that will satisfy the ego-self. Throughout this process of judgment, we no longer live in the present moment, because our minds are preoccupied with thoughts of the past (e.g. repeating our success and avoiding our failure in the past) and projections of those thoughts into the future (e.g. imagining the accomplishment of our goals). Not only are we not living in the present, we often are "over-doing" everything in order to get what we want to satisfy the ego-self.

Lance Armstrong's case best illustrates all the components of Lao Tzu's wisdom. You want to be the best cyclist in the world (ego-self). You expect yourself to work hard to meet the expectations of others, including yourself (expectation). You may begin to choose what is best to achieve your goals, including doping (judgment). You are no longer concerned about the health or the legal issues of doping (not living in the present). You over-do everything, including practice, doping, and manipulating other cyclists (over-doing).

Lao Tzu emphasizes the importance of "under-doing" or "non-doing." It does not mean that you don't do anything at all; rather, it implies that you do your best, and let God do the rest; you take the stress out of expectation and judgment, and you attain the wisdom to see the right path for the right action. After all, who is really in charge of human affairs? You, or your Creator?

According to Lao Tzu, everything in this world will return to its origin, which is the spontaneity of all things: life is inevitably followed by death, high is followed by low, and success is accompanied by failure. Essentially, nothing in this world is permanent. The wisdom in living is to embrace what life has to offer, both the good and the bad, as well as the desirable and the undesirable-and learn valuable life lessons from them, since everything is impermanent and nothing lasts forever. The truth of the matter is to live your life to the fullest, which is living in the present moment. "Over-doing" prevents and you from living in the present, and it always comes with a hefty price.

Stephen Lau

Copyright©2018 by Stephen Lau
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