Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gain and Loss

The fourth in my series of excerpts from Zen Lessons: The Art of Leadership, following on Too Late, Don't Rush and Being in the World Without Misery. I just love the timeless quality of these stories.

69. Gain and Loss

Lingyuan said to the Confucian sage Cheng Yi:
     Calamity can produce fortune, fortune can produce calamity. This is because when one is in situations of disaster and danger, one is earnest in taking thought for safety, and when one is deeply immersed in seeking out order, one is capable of seriousness and discretion — therefore good fortune is born, and it is fitting.
     When fortune produces calamity, it is because when living in tranquility people indulge their greed and laziness, and are mostly scornful and arrogant — therefore calamity is born.
     A sage said, "Having many difficulties perfects the will; having no difficulties ruins the being."
     Gain is the edge of loss, loss is the heart of gain. Therefore blessings cannot visit over and over again, one cannot always hope for gain. When you are in a fortunate situation and so consider calamity, then that fortune can be preserved; when you see gain and consider loss, then that gain will surely arrive.
     Therefore a superior person is one who when safe does not forget danger, and who in times of order does not forget about disorder.
a scroll

This is the primordial Transition story. What is he saying? In calamity — the failure of industrial society, as exemplified by peak oil, climate change, and the systemic economic crisis — is born fortune. Transitioners are those "deeply immersed in seeking out order", and by being so we plant the seed from which good fortune might arise.
     Our society has been brought to this stage by several generations of economic growth and a growing middle class, and many were falsely led to believe this new and unique condition would last indefinitely. They are the apathetic — those without difficulties, who lived in tranquil times, indulged their greed and laziness, and who remain scornful and arrogant. They heap calamity upon themselves, and others.
     The superior person does not forget danger, does not neglect the possibility of calamity — and therefore secures good fortune. That is who we must be.

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