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I handed off my favorite translation of the Tao Te Ching to a friend recently and one of my favorite stories lit up like a supernova in my mind.  The story goes something like this:

Once, a Chinese lord who followed the Tao was under siege by a local lord who thought him weak.  His people were in fear.  Their friends and farmers outside the keep could not approach.  Food stores were running low.  The king gathered his people together and called out to the greatest thief in the town.  Everyone in the town knew who this person was, but it took a while for her to step forward from her home in the shadows.  The lord got on his knees and asked her calmly to aid his fair city.  It may not have been kind to her, but she is the only one who can save their keep.  Obviously, this piqued the thief's curiosity and the king told her what he had to do.  

That night, the thief was sent out alone on a dangerous mission.  The following morning, one of the most agile boys in the town climbed down the side of the fort and delivered the jade hairpin of the sieging general to the standing army.  The siege continued and the thief was sent out into the night once more.  This time, the general was waiting on the front lines to retrieve his pillow from the young delivery boy.  

A curious thing then happened.  The siege stopped.  The people asked their king why this had worked.  He told them that he was demonstrating his power.  Taking his hairpin was easy, a catburglar could do that.  Taking the pillow gently enough that it could not be sensed was a step up to the level that if my people were to come to harm from his blockade, I could take his life at any moment I pleased.  He finally reminded his subjects to reflect on who had saved them from their plights and asked them to focus on aiding the worst of them that they might not have to resort to such desperate acts.

The story sticks with me to remind me that all beings have purpose.  There is no good or bad, there is simply what is.  A thief is a result, not a criminal.  A challenge is a door, and many keys exist if you are but creative enough to find them.


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  2. "You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop."